Line Contractor

A Gold Mine of Information: Understanding the importance of job briefings

In the utility workspace, OSHA job briefings are covered in two particular standards, Code of Federal Regulations 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V, the first for general industry and the second for the construction side of the business. The language is similar since OSHA harmonized the 1926 language in 2014 when it published the revised 1910.269.

The briefing requirements are critical to compliance and essential to a workplace. Most, if not all, job briefings are conducted at the project site prior to the beginning of work. 1910.269 states:

(1) Before each job. (i) In assigning an employee or a group of employees to perform a job, the employer shall provide the employee in charge of the job with all available information that relates to the determination of existing characteristics and conditions required by paragraph (a)(4) of this section. (ii) The employer shall ensure that the employee in charge conducts a job briefing that meets paragraphs (c)(2), (c)(3), and (c)(4) of this section with the employees involved before they start each job.

(2) Subjects to be covered: The briefing shall cover at least the following subjects: hazards associated with the job, work procedures involved, special precautions, energy-source controls, and personal protective equipment requirements.

(3) Number of briefings: (i) If the work or operations to be performed during the workday or shift are repetitive and similar, at least one job briefing shall be conducted before the start of the first job of each day or shift. (ii) Additional job briefings shall be held if significant changes, which might affect the safety of the employees, occur during the course of the work.

(4) Extent of briefing: (i) A brief discussion is satisfactory if the work involved is routine and if the employees, by virtue of training and experience, can reasonably be expected to recognize and avoid the hazards involved in the job. (ii) A more extensive discussion shall be conducted: (A) If the work is complicated or particularly hazardous, or (B) If the employee cannot be expected to recognize and avoid the hazards involved in the job. Note to paragraph (c)(4): The briefing must address all the subjects listed in paragraph (c)(2) of this section.”

The language in 1926.952(a) is similar. OSHA’s rationale behind this requirement is to ensure the employer is providing the most detailed information about the job to the workforce. This way, employees are presented with the best course of action to complete the job safely. I cannot stress enough the importance of taking the briefing seriously, even on routine work. I’m sure all of us have observed or conducted a job briefing at the work site and witnessed, at times, the lack of attention or seriousness.

Getting the crew to understand the job briefing’s significance is the key objective. One method I have recommended to companies that I consult with are to make the briefing interactive.

For example, have a qualified crew member conduct the briefing, ask questions during the briefing to check for understanding and solicit alternative methods if questions arise. This gets the crew involved and demonstrates trust in employees. When you seek their input rather than preach the requirement, they can feel they are part of the process and will gain a better appreciation of the requirements. When this is conveyed, the crew feels part of the solution rather than just the worker given instructions to complete a task.

In my August 2020 SAFETY LEADER article, “Communicate, Collaborate and Listen” (available at ecmag.com), I addressed the three keys to successful employee engagement. When discussing a project you need to tell the crew (1) what you are going to do, (2) why you’re doing it and, most important, (3) how, together, we can accomplish the task.

These three areas of engagement and communication can be applied to the job briefing to give you a better chance of keeping the crew’s attention on the details of the job and conducting a proper briefing. Remember, one of the required processes of the briefing is to have each employee sign off on the document saying they have been given the message and understand the job duties, potential hazards involved and procedures to be used, as well as any special precautions and PPE required, if needed, to perform the job.

Sometimes the simplest tasks cause you the most heartburn. Getting crew members involved in the briefing gives you an assist in accomplishing this requirement without the antacids!

About the Author

Chuck Kelly

Kelly, president of Kelly Consulting & Mediation Services, has worked with utility industry leaders on safety, labor relations and human resources for more than 30 years. Reach him at 540-686-0118 or cklk3@yahoo.com.

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