Communicating Hazards During the Pre-Job Briefing

Paul Chamberlain Columns, Safety Corner, Winter 2019 Columns

Protection from hazards always begins with proper prior planning. An important aid to correctly and thoroughly planning a job includes using a tool known throughout the industry as a pre-job briefing, commonly called a PJB. This tool is called a tailboard or tailboard meeting in construction parlance, but no matter what it is called, PJBs are all designed to do the same thing: Identify relevant hazards on the job site or while performing a task and communicate those hazards to all persons on the job who might be affected by those hazards.

Communication is key. PJBs should be a give-and-take discussion. All members of the workgroup should participate, whether they are fellow employees or not. If they are affected by your work, or their work affects yours, they should participate.

The updated requirement in NFPA 70E-2018, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, Article 110.1(I) states the following regarding a pre-job briefing:

Before starting each job that involves exposure to electrical hazards, the employee in charge shall complete a job safety plan and conduct a job briefing with the employees involved.

(1) Job Safety Planning. The job safety plan shall be in accordance with the following:

  1. Be completed by a qualified person
  2. Be documented
  3. Include the following information:
  • A description of the job and the individual tasks
  • Identification of the electrical hazards associated with each task
  • A shock risk assessment in accordance with 130.4 for tasks involving a shock hazard
  • An arc flash risk assessment in accordance with 130.5 for tasks involving an arc flash hazard
  • Work procedures involved, special precautions, and energy source controls

(2) Job Briefing. The job briefing shall cover the job safety plan and the information on the energized electrical work permit, if a permit is required.

(3) Change in Scope. Additional job safety planning and job briefings shall be held if changes occur during the course of the work that might affect the safety of employees.

NFPA goes so far as to include a sample Job Briefing and Planning Checklist under Informative Annex I (Figure 1). This specific form is not required, but a similar form should be created to aid employees in the identification and mitigation of potential hazards.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also requires a PJB under 29 CFR 1910.269, Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution:

  • 269(c)(1)(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.
  • 1910.269(c)(1)(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.
  • OSHA also requires the PJB to cover “hazards associated with the job, work procedures involved, special precautions, energy-source controls, and personal protective equipment requirements.”

Additional PJBs may be required during the day if the task or workplace location change significantly enough to change the hazards involved in performing the work. The more hazards present to the task performers, the more detailed the PJB must be. More extensive PJBs may need to be conducted for inexperienced employees. The only time a PJB is NOT required is if that employee will be working alone:

OSHA 1910.269(C)(5): However, the employer shall ensure that the tasks to be performed are planned as if a briefing were required.

OSHA’s website, under eTools, suggests using a checklist to facilitate the PJB:

Keeping a written record of job briefings is not specifically covered by the standard, but it is a best practice to do so. A written checklist can include the hazards, procedures, precautions, and PPE requirements associated with a job, as well as a column for employee signatures indicating they are knowledgeable about job hazards and safety procedures. Such documentation can help ensure that proper briefings are held at the right times (for example, beginning of a shift) and that everyone has been informed. For an example checklist, see the “Job Briefing and Planning Checklist” in Annex I of the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace.

As can be seen in this quote, even OSHA refers back to the sample PJB in NFPA 70E.

Many different versions and styles of PJBs are used by utilities, large manufacturers, and individual testing companies. All of them are designed to do one thing, and they do it fairly well: PJBs aid task performer(s) in identifying and minimizing risks associated with the hazards of doing the task. Some PJBs focus strongly on physical hazards, others focus on task specific procedures, and some help identify human error traps. Since a PJB is designed to be a quick, simple-to-use tool for the task performer, it is difficult to develop a form that encapsulates all of those needs. An employer should be able to identify which hazards within the work are greatest or are a more pressing need to address with the workforce and develop a PJB adequate to identify those hazards.

Every PJB should identify the means to prevent the inadvertent or unexpected release of electrical energy. Since that is one of the greater and most prevalent hazards that exist within the testing industry, the PFJ should identify how it will controlled via means including individual lock out/tag out, switching and tagging, live-line clearances, and/or the use of grounding. It is also wise to allow space on the form for the performer to indicate lock or tag or ground locations to ensure proper removal when the work is completed.

Address and indicate the limited, restricted, and arc flash boundaries on the form. This makes it easier for performers to advise visitors to the work location of the various approach distances. Additionally, the hazard/risk category level or PPE category level and any additional PPE required to complete the task should be indicated on the form.

The person-in-charge (PIC) who fills out a PJB form should review all hazards with the task performer(s) and give them ample opportunity to ask questions. A PJB should be a give-and-take discussion, not a dictation. The PJB review should be conducted with ALL personnel who could be affected by task performance or by anyone else whose work could impact the task. This includes contractors, subcontractors, and peripheral workers on the jobsite. Once the review is complete, all persons attending the PJB review should indicate as such in some way. It may be as simple as printing their name on the PJB itself, or the PJB may have a separate sign-in sheet. If the task or the job location changes significantly, a new PJB or review and amendment of the original PJB form may be necessary. Should a visitor arrive on-site, they should immediately be prevented from encroaching upon the work area, and the PJB should be reviewed to apprise them of the potential hazards on the jobsite.

Conclusion

Identifying and mitigating potential job hazards is important to prevent possible injuries or accidents. It is up to the employer to provide an adequate means to identify and address those hazards. A PJB form is required in most cases, and it is an easy and effective means to identify hazards. The employer should ensure the PJB is adequate for the tasks employees will perform, and employees should USE the form to aid in preventing potential injuries. An employee who has suggestions on improving the form should voice those suggestions to the employer. After all, it is the employee’s form to use.

Paul Chamberlain has been the Safety Manager for American Electrical Testing Co., LLC since 2009. He has been in the safety field for the past 21 years, working for various companies and in various industries. He received a Bachelor of Science in safety and environmental protection from Massachusetts Maritime Academy.