by Jim Wolfe, IAMU Electric Services Coordinator
The word documentation echoes through the buildings, streets, and jobsites of our utilities and city departments. Job duties have shifted from grabbing the stuff you need for the day and heading out to filing reports, working with metering and billing software, inventory management, budgets, and safety compliance. People that previously spent most of their time in the field have a lot more administrative duties now and this creates paperwork. Some of this trickles down to the people out in the field and isn’t always accepted as a positive thing. Why is this my problem? We only have a couple employees, so is this really necessary? Don’t we do enough paperwork?
Job briefings seem to fall into the “things that I dislike” folder for many of us. “You hired me to do a job and now I have to waste time reminding myself and others what to do every day. I’m not a child.” There are times when we don’t like to do what someone else tells us to. Change is tough for people to embrace, especially when changes add another step to a task. As individuals, we have to look at the benefit of this add-on instead of how much of an inconvenience it’s supposedly going to be.
Earlier this month APPA’s Mike Hyland published a blog explaining the benefits of job briefings in the workplace. There were lots of great examples included that illustrated how briefings can look and interesting ways to make them more acceptable at work. Everyone wants to be safe and work safe, but we all need reminders daily. Mike had some great points about how a briefing will shift a workers focus onto the task at hand and help them perform better. Addressing the hazards will give the worker a head start to avoiding and controlling those same hazards. This won’t only benefit new people in the field. Experienced workers find themselves getting complacent when not reminded about responsibilities and dangers related to their jobs.
How do I get my people to do this? Job briefings are a requirement based on OSHA, NESC, and numerous safety manual rules and regulations. This is a huge reinforcement for this practice, but a more personal approach may be needed to gain acceptance. Many of our member utilities take pride in the work that their people do to keep their operations efficient and safe. If they take a few minutes out of the day to insure that everyone knows what is going on by performing a briefing they will continue to be safe and efficient. A reminder of how our wages, benefits, and our well-being affect others in our lives and the loss of one or all due to an accident can turn things upside down might be a motivator.
I don’t always like to be told what to do. People say, “Be careful”. “Ya, I know”, I may say and then move on to the task. This has gotten me in trouble due to the attitude that I know what I want to do instead of what I should do. I’ve broken things, hurt myself and possibly affected other people with this attitude in the past. After the dust cleared, the damage was done or the injury was realized, there was no benefit in skipping the small task of reminding myself of the hazards of the job. Instead of saying, ”what a waste of time”, I should have said “ they want me to go home in one piece today.” The 5 minutes that I saved just cost me 2 hours in the emergency room.
Try to get employees to take ownership in this important responsibility. Get them involved with creating a program instead of handing out a sheet and informing them that “this is what I want from now on!” Others have been creative in insuring that the briefing form doesn’t end up being a 5 second item that a long pencil line through 20 boxes will complete. Feel free to take ideas from the following examples found in the link to create or improve your current practices. http://appanet.files.cms-plus.com/PDFs/33-%20RP3%20Safety_final.pdf
. One of my former supervisors reminded us the no one ever planned to fail, but lots failed to plan. Briefings are part of the job just as loading tools up or filling the fuel tank before you head out. It is more paperwork in an already busy day, but it might save lives limbs and your well being.