Safe work practices ensure that all employees have a common level of knowledge and are able to perform tasks in the same way. For a contractor, ensuring safety at a worksite is the most crucial aspect of getting a job done. When everyone follows safe practices, not only will crews experience fewer accidents, but also productivity and efficiency will increase.
In recent years, there has been a greater involvement of trade employees in the safety process. One of the most effective ways to foster this involvement is through pre-task planning, which is essential to the success of a construction project—and more importantly—considered one of the most powerful safety tools.
A pre-task analysis occurs at the start of each day, prior to beginning any work, as well as any time the scope of work changes, and helps everyone involved to get on the same page before the day gets underway.
The process promotes open, two-way dialogue as crew members gather around a whiteboard to identify and document the potential hazards, as well as controls to minimize the associated risks. As work progresses,
employees are required to report any change in scope of work that may create unforeseen or unidentified hazards. At that time, the crew gathers to reassess, completing the process again to reflect the new scope of work. All
employees understand the plan for work, have identified the hazards, mitigated the associated risks and evaluated the material and equipment needs.
Successful pre-task analysis is contingent on interaction among the project crew members, but with a true culture of planning present, contractors can also appreciate the benefits of pre-task planning. There are five core components of any effective pre-task planning analysis:
Define the scope of work—A clear understanding of the work assignment is critical to each day’s work. This step requires the crew to review the pertinent documents (e.g. written procedures, drawings and specifications) before listing the steps to be performed for the day to ensure the task is clearly understood. On large projects, there may be several crews completing a daily work briefing in different areas. For instance, a roughing crew will perform a separate work briefing from a power distribution crew or a trimming crew. Each crew might have different tasks and those might have their own inherent set of hazards or potential hazards.
Analyze the hazards—Here it is vital for crews to identify situational and inherent hazards or potential hazards. To identify the hazard, each crew member should discuss how someone may be injured while performing the task. Examples could include materials being used, equipment/tools being utilized, work locations, crew knowledge, worksite conditions, crew cohesiveness, and a host of other conditions.
Develop and implement hazard controls—Once the hazards have been identified, the crew should then devise solutions to eliminate the hazards by implementing control measures. Specified methods, tools, and equipment might be used to reduce or eliminate the hazards. When the hazards cannot be eliminated, safeguards must be put in place. Examples include the erection of guardrails if work is performed at elevation or the use of personal protective equipment.
Perform work within hazard control—This step requires crew members to discuss how work will be performed within the identified hazard controls. Crew members have to carefully think through their tasks so that they are able to satisfactorily address hazards. This may include changing the basic approach to performing the work or by rearranging the sequence of performing the work activities.
Provide feedback and continuous improvement—During this stage, supervisors are expected to regularly review their work processes and provide feedback. Pre-task planning meetings are necessary when changes to the scope of work or hazard control measures occur or subsequent tasks are required. The crew may have a single pre-task planning meeting or several for various tasks throughout a single day. Any changes, which result in improved work practices, more efficient procedures, or generally improve how work was conducted should be noted and communicated to employees.
Enhance Safety, Productivity and Efficiency
While toolbox talk meetings can address policy or compliance issues, often these topics have little or no relevance to the day-to-day activities on the jobsite.
The pre-task analysis is a collaborative process that allows crew members to interact and give feedback on their specific work tasks on a daily basis.
Because the process is done on a whiteboard, it’s very easy to update work plans should the crew need to reconvene. The board serves as a visual reminder for crew members every time they walk past, and it eliminates the administrative burden of piling paper work that comes with toolbox talks.
Implementation of pre-task analysis can help job sites stay more organized and make field employees feel more engaged in their daily tasks. This awareness and involvement leads to a conscientious and motivated, and therefore more productive and safety-conscious, crew.
Continuously improving the ability to plan at every project will, in turn, continue to reduce accident frequency and severity.