How to Maximize the Pre-Job Briefing

Follow a checklist, and make it a conversation, not a lecture.

What’s the first thing your workers do on the jobsite each day? A pre-job briefing, held before anyone picks up a hammer or begins laying pipe, will prepare them for the tasks ahead.

A pre-job briefing should include all members of the construction crew. Together, you can review the day’s schedule, discuss the steps everyone should follow to accomplish the work safely and effectively and share any concerns.

At their worst, these briefings come down to a one-way lecture that the crew more or less tunes out as they wait to get to work. At their best, they’re a useful dialogue, a two-way exchange of information and ideas.

Jarrett Quoyle, senior director of safety and health at MasTec – Utility Services, an infrastructure engineering and construction company based in Florida, describes the pre-job briefing this way: “It’s a group conversation that solicits participation and communication between the crew members. It’s a way to assess hazards, PPE needs or equipment needs prior to starting the work.”

Quoyle described some topics the pre-job briefing might cover if trench work is on the day’s schedule:

“Is there additional PPE that may be required? Are we thinking about cave-in protection if it’s at certain depths? Are we thinking about egress? Are we controlling our spoil piles? The pre-job briefing also acts as your standard competent person inspection or check. We might say, 'Hey, it rained last night, now we see standing water, so before we can do anything, we may need a pump.”

The purpose, said Quoyle: “To get it right before we start.”

Follow a checklist

Following a checklist can make your pre-job briefings more efficient and effective. You can find plenty of examples of pre-job briefing forms online. At a minimum, you’ll want to include in your briefing:

  • The scope of work being done that day
  • The individuals or crews that are assigned to cover each task
  • The jobsite conditions, including any potential hazards
  • The procedures they’ll follow to do the job
  • The PPE equipment they must use to perform the work
  • A review of the things that could go wrong and how to prevent them

Keep workers engaged

To engage workers, gather in a small area and have everyone put away their cell phones. Make sure the crew can hear you, but don’t spend your time lecturing. Ask questions to get them thinking about the best way to do their jobs and keep themselves safe. Invite them to ask questions, too.

A pre-job briefing takes time, but it’s time well spent. The more construction workers think ahead about the job they’re doing that day and the hazards they may encounter, the less likely they are to get injured while doing it. As a result, the whole project runs more smoothly.

Freelance writer Mary Lou Jay writes about business and technical developments in a variety of industries. She has been covering residential and commercial construction for more than 25 years.

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