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The Importance of the Pre-Job Safety Briefing

The Importance of the Pre-Job Safety Briefing

Do you always practice what you preach? I've worked as a tree service groundsman, a climber, a crew leader, a safety supervisor, a trainer, and now run my own tree care company. But within the past few weeks, I've realized that some of the things I did with other companies have been completely bypassed by myself at my own company. This thought stemmed from bringing my entire crew to a training seminar and listening to the speakers talk about Pre-Job Safety Briefings as well as their emergency plans.

When working for other companies, it was commonplace that every day we did a written Pre-Job Safety Briefing. At times I thought it was stupid and a waste of time. I assumed that many of the things that we talked about were obvious to everyone on the crew and didn't really need to be brought up. Safety hazards like ice on the driveway in winter, a hanger in the tree we were about to ascend, holes in the yard from dogs, or local traffic had always written down, but seemed like you had to be blind or oblivious to miss these hazards. When I started my own company, we would do a verbal Pre-Job Safety Briefing, but we never wrote anything down on most days. Other days we would get to the job and immediately start working without even discussing any of the hazards, nor even discuss our project's progress or anything like that. Just get to the site and, 'fuel up those saws and hand me the rigging line!' Sound like your crew?

Strangely enough, when I did remember to have a discussion before beginning work, we usually had decent conversations about what was going on for the day, and what some of the hazards were, but the information was incomplete and not written down. Honestly, I knew this wasn't a great way to handle these situations but every time we arrived at a job--it was go time. After attending the training seminar and discussing these missed opportunities with my crew, I became quite angry with the state I had made at my own company. I expected my crew to come out and work their butts off all day long to get a job done without ever having a discussion about what the hazards were. I just expected them to know, which feels silly now.

So, at 9 pm after the last day of training, I put together a Pre-Job Safety Briefing for the next day of work. I built it off the basis of what the TCIA provided to their members on their website which is a great place to start. The next morning, my crew took 5-10 minutes out of our morning to get everything on track and discuss our day WITHOUT time constraints! This was great for us to look over the entire work area as well as talk about things that we thought could become issues throughout the day. We were also doing a large crane removal that day so it was much easier to get a large crew all on the same page as to exactly what they were going to be doing for the day--whether that be running a saw while others chipped brush and while others ran machinery. Just taking the time in the morning helped us as a crew understand what hazards we were working around, we discussed the address of the job (which never really happened before) and we wrote it all down so that it is easy to find in the event of an emergency as well as helped with the retention of the information. It was a win-win!

Pre-Job Briefings are great for covering safety concerns like:

Address of job
Nearest hospital
Emergency contact numbers other than 911
Type of job (great for differentiating between normal tree work operations and more intensive jobs like crane removals and for informing OSHA of changes of procedure due to the use of the crane)
Traffic control options
Distance to electrical conductors
Extreme weather conditions

These are just a few of the many options that are great to have on your Pre Job Briefing AND discuss every morning while DOING the Pre-Job Briefing!

More than likely you are probably already doing Pre Job Safety Briefings at your company or maybe you are having a good discussion in the morning before the work begins'or maybe you are where I was, expecting others to understand the hazards without discussing them. This was a pretty poor way to build a team. It's also a poor way to manage other people's well-being. I ASSUMED that everyone paid attention to the same things that I did and we all know what happens when we assume right? I'm glad I attended the training seminar and realized my mistake before it cost me.

Here's just an example Pre-Job Safety Briefing:
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