In previous columns, we have emphasized the importance of the planning function for the electrical construction supervisor. In like fashion, we recently underscored various important aspects of the supervisor’s role in safety. Planning for safety, then, is an action to which supervisors should become accustomed.

We have noted that the electrical company’s safety policies and procedures do not come about by happenstance. Rather, they are very carefully considered in light of federal, state and local statutes and in view of the contract requirements for the work the company typically performs. Additionally, the company’s safety policies and procedures are carefully considered from the perspective of business goals and objectives. Additionally, the safety program policies and procedures include elements of thought regarding the values and beliefs of the company’s managers. They were planned with the idea that safety is a legal, economic, business, and moral and ethical issue.

The electrical supervisor should approach safety with the same degree of thoughtful care. One of the most effective measures the electrical supervisor can undertake is to plan for safety. This planning should be done on a long-term, look-ahead basis and on a short-term planning basis. This means assessing and planning for the work to be done in the future and being specifically mindful of the safety consideration in upcoming work.

Take into consideration specific materials and their use; equipment; personal protective equipment; what is already on hand and what the supervisor will need to procure; the amount, skill and experience level of the craftspeople required; extra supervision; witnesses; etc.

Our point is the safety considerations in each component of work must be planned the same way the performance parameters of the work must be planned. Not only should the supervisor think through the upcoming work and formulate a detailed plan, a written safety plan should be made.

One of the most effective ways to do this is to make a safety analysis and planning worksheet. This can take a form like the generic illustration below, or it can be much more detailed and inclusive.

It is most strongly recommended that electrical supervisors take the time to prepare a written plan for the activities they and their crews perform. The supervisor might prepare such a plan in anticipation of the work to be done the next day or within the next few days. Or the supervisor might begin the job of looking ahead to the work to be performed in the coming weeks and begin thinking in advance about the safety planning considerations.

In another important component of planning, the supervisor might review the plan with the crew in the morning toolbox talk. During this review, the plan becomes a communication tool to let everyone know what is going to be done and what the plan will be. Additionally and importantly, the supervisor can ask for input, additional ideas and suggested changes to the plan from those who will be performing the work.

This safety planning method also includes some other very important considerations. If the plan is formulated in advance, the supervisor will have the opportunity to review the plan with others in the management hierarchy, seeking approval and/or additional ideas. And finally, the written plan can be included in the all-important project documentation files.

A word of caution: Some supervisors and company managers lament that they do not have time for planning. For the electrical supervisor, the thought must be, “I do not have time not to engage in detailed safety planning.”

ROUNDS is the AGC endowed chair and professor of civil engineering at the University of New Mexico. E-mail him at jlrounds@unm.edu. SEGNER is a professor of construction science at Texas A&M University. Contact him at rsegner@archmail.tamu.edu.