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OSHA Job Briefing Basics

A job briefing – sometimes referred to as a job hazard analysis or task hazard analysis – is a tool at our disposal to assist us with safely performing electric utility work. Before we begin, let’s review 29 CFR 1910.269(c) regarding job briefings so we can lay a foundation for using a job briefing effectively. The section states that the “employer shall ensure that the employee in charge conducts a job briefing with the employees involved before they start each job. 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.”

What is a Job Briefing?
Now that we understand what 1910.269(c) requires us to do, let’s define what a good job briefing is. For our purposes here, a job briefing is an assessment of safety and health conditions related to a specific job or task. A good job briefing is also a crew participatory process of identifying and eliminating or controlling recognized hazards before commencing a task as a means of creating a safer and healthier work environment.

Performing a job briefing can significantly contribute to the prevention of accidents. For simple tasks, a job briefing may be a thought process for a single employee assignment, a verbal discussion as part of a tailboard, or a conversation among crew members when work is assigned at the maintenance facility or show-up site prior to departure, followed by a detailed job briefing at the work site. For more complicated tasks, a written job briefing may be more appropriate and effective in lieu of a verbal discussion.

When is a Written Job Briefing Needed?
While the federal standard doesn’t require a written job briefing, it does require that the employer ensure that a job briefing is done. A written job briefing provides the employer with the evidence that they have met that criteria, plus it also:
• Provides focus for crews while conducting hazard analysis associated with tasks.
• Helps to overcome language and other potential communication barriers. For example, different crews may have crew members who need direction and clarification because they are not familiar with the work procedures.
• Establishes the limits of planned and evaluated tasks, providing a clear starting point for additional briefings that will cover new tasks.
• Often serves as a methodical guide to task hazards, making sure all areas of hazard analysis are covered.
• Helps in developing an organized approach during situations in which tasks are unfamiliar or infrequently performed and may involve hazardous conditions.
• Allows crews to return to the written briefing to review the work plan or to bring new arrivals or visitors up to speed on the job without leaving anything out.
• Serves as a valuable tool for training new employees who may require more instruction or guidance in work site hazards and safety procedures.

How Many Daily Job Briefings Are Required?
The standard requires at least one job briefing, but it also requires an additional job briefing if significant changes occur during the course of the work that might affect the safety of the employees.

Supervisor Responsibilities
Typically, a crew supervisor or foreman will conduct a job briefing before engaging in the work activity. Crew supervisors are responsible for ensuring that the work crew understands the hazards associated with each job task. The supervisor may be charged with the responsibility for job briefings, but they should also ensure every member of the work crew is given the opportunity to participate in the development and review of the job briefing. Allowing other crew members to assist with developing the job briefing is an excellent opportunity for crew supervisors to both engage the crew in the participatory process as well as mentor future crew leaders.

At a minimum, a supervisor or foreman should ensure the work crew understands:
• What is to be done and in what sequence.
• How it is to be done and by whom.
• Possible hazards and how they are to be addressed.
• The status of energy sources.
• Personal protective equipment requirements.
• All changes in procedure and scope of the work.

Additionally, if a safety concern is addressed by any member of the crew during the work activity, the supervisor or foreman must resolve the issue, consulting with higher-level management and/or safety personnel if necessary. As the job progresses, the crew must remain alert for changes in conditions and events that may require review of and modifications to the job briefing.

A job briefing is a hazard communication and mitigation process that provides us with a proactive and effective means of preventing electric utility work site accidents. It is a tool you want to carry with you on the job.

About the Author: Will Schnyer, CUSP, is a division maintenance manager for the Rocky Mountain Region of Western Area Power Administration, a power marketing agency within the U.S. Department of Energy. He is a Certified Utility Safety Professional and has more than 28 years of experience working in the electric distribution and transmission field.

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