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Safety Leadership in a Written Pre-Job Briefing

OSHA 1910.269(c) states that an employer must ensure that a pre-job briefing is conducted and that it covers the following details of the job: 

• Hazards
• Work procedures
• Special precautions
• Energy source controls
• Personal protective equipment requirements

A Valuable Idea
Companies are moving to a written pre-job briefing to document compliance with OSHA standards. A written pre-job briefing policy is the best practice, but a written pre-job briefing never audited is a missed opportunity in establishing a strong safety culture. Safety leadership begins at the top. People sometimes will not do what is expected, but will do what is inspected. In other words, what gets checked gets done.

For a company to make a safety idea part of the realized safety culture, the idea must be perceived as valuable by all employees. Improving an employee’s ability to recognize and mitigate hazards will improve safety and is the key element of a solid safety culture. Managers, supervisors and labor all have a role to play in order to support a successful safety program.

The Manager’s Duties
A manager must establish clear pre-job briefing standards with detailed expectations in the areas of hazard identification, hazard mitigation and safe work procedures. A standard of monitoring and inspecting drives compliance, meaning that written pre-job briefings will be filled out correctly and in accordance with the standards set by OSHA, the leadership team and the company’s safety policies. This equips the crew leader and crew members with the ability to make safe decisions in the field.

A manager must also lay out clear expectations regarding recognition of all hazards around the employees, including in the air and on the ground, electrical and mechanical, as well as pedestrian and motor traffic. They must expect that the mitigation plan be clear, thought out and executed, and that safe work procedures are well-defined and pertain to the actual work to be done, not the statement of work to be done. The manager must communicate expectations to the supervisory team and must then inspect them.

The supervisor must communicate pre-job briefing expectations as the requirement of the leadership team, not just the manager. A failure to demonstrate solidarity at this point is a failure to the safety leadership process and to leadership as a whole. The supervisor must inspect the pre-job briefings as to the expectation of the team, and must have a plan to coach and equip the individual crew leaders who might struggle with the leadership team’s expectations. This will reveal where refresher training may be necessary in the areas of hazard identification, hazard mitigation, safe work procedures and leadership for employees.

Compliance is Key
A crew leader must be compliant with the rules and expectations of the leadership team. As a result of this compliance, a strong safety culture is developed with time and perseverance, making safety the responsibility of each and every employee.

A written unaudited pre-job briefing or checkbox-type pre-job briefing form is often found to be completed post-job and is not incorporated into the pre-job meeting, negating the OSHA standard and the opportunity to create a solid safety culture. However, sharing the responsibilities of writing and conducting detailed, audited pre-job briefings assists in the development of young lineworkers into crew leaders, crew leaders into supervisors and supervisors into managers, and establishes a well-defined culture of safety. What started with a manager, a form and safety leadership is now a solid safety culture where every employee is a true safety leader.

About the Author: Timothy D. Self, CUSP, is the director of operations for the Institute for Safety in Powerline Construction. He has more than 25 years of line experience working as a lineman, trainer, and training and safety manager.

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