Back to Safety Articles Main Page

Orientations, Task Training and Safety Meetings

How Do I Comply?

Published: October 2014
By Wesley L. Wheeler

Orientations, safety talks, task training, job briefings and safety meetings each require an interaction between the company and the employee. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to comply with their standards including new hire training, safety training, specific task training and training in regulations. The key to each of these is the documentation that needs to be completed at the end of each one to provide a record on file.

New employee or orientation training is specific to the job the employee is going to be performing. Whether it is a janitor, an office worker or a construction worker, their orientation training will deal with the job duties they will be required to perform. For example, a janitor needs to know and become familiar with cleaning chemicals they may be exposed to on a regular basis. These daily exposures can put them at risk due to the repeated and frequent use of these chemicals. An office worker must be familiar with the escape routes and means of egress in case of emergency. They may also be exposed to office chemicals more frequently than they are in their own personal lives. Ink cartridges, "white-out," and bathroom air fresheners are few examples of exposures that are high in the office environment as compared at home.

Job orientation for a construction worker is unique since they have to be made aware of seen and unseen hazards found on a job site. Sometimes, it may even require a walkthrough with the supervisor to point out hazards or to make the new employee aware of surroundings. Often this new-hire training also includes the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to keep the employee safe. Proper care and storage of the PPE must also be explained to ensure that it provides the protection that the user expects. This orientation must carefully consider how much experience and hazard recognition knowledge the worker has. A journeyman electrician in the field may be familiar with ladder safety, excavations and hazard communication, whereas a helper or trainee may lack all of these skills.

Job site safety talks are required on a weekly basis on most construction sites and may or may not be trade specific. In either case, they need to current and appropriate for the current activities on a job. Discussing cold related emergencies during the summer is one way to lose employee interest during these talks. These talks are usually short and must be documented to meet training requirements. The key is how and where do I record this documentation?

The concept of apprenticeship was built around an experienced worker training an unexperienced worker in the ways and means of performing in a certain trade. A carpenter taught his or her trainee how to properly cut with a saw and use a hammer. An electrician taught his trainee how to install receptacles and lights. A crane operator must teach their trainee how to properly set up and lift a load. Each of these activities is an example of task training that must be done in order to help a worker be proficient at his or her job. Task training can be on the job under direct supervision of an experienced worker or in a classroom setting taught by a qualified instructor. A new worker must have the opportunity to learn and apply this education in the field. Only then can the trainee/apprentice become the journeyperson qualified to teach others. This is very cyclical in the big scheme of things.

Planning is always an essential part of any job and a job briefing before starting any work can ensure a plan is in place and the work will go smoothly. There are many examples in the OSHA Standards where a job briefing is required before certain activities; permit-required confined spaces, rigging and lifting activities with a crane and before any work is performed on or near an energized electrical circuit or equipment. During these briefings it is often discussed who is performing what tasks, what are the specific procedures that must be followed, and who is responsible for coordinating with the owner or other trades.

Safety meetings are usually company meetings where all employees of a company are brought together to receive updates and review policies and procedures. Specific topics are presented that apply to all employees and therefore it is better to do these meetings in a group setting. These meetings also provide an opportunity for companies to bring outside trainers or subject matter experts in to cover the required material. In all of these cases, documentation must include who was there in attendance, what material or topic was covered, who conducted the training or discussion, and when and where these meetings took place. It is a good practice to include and save any presentation or handout material that was presented to the attendee(s).

The key here is these safety meetings are not one and done training classes. All of the topics cannot be covered in one short talk or meeting. It is also important to remember that safety is an ongoing responsibility of both the employer and the employee. Having tools such as mobile apps and programs that can be used by supervisors in the field make it easier for them to have material to cover and save documentation electronically. Keeping paper records on the jobsite may not offer the ability for the office to keep up to date on who is performing their required training and what topics are being covered. In OSHA's perspective, if all of these safety and training classes are not documented properly, they did not take place. Don't wait until OSHA knocks on the door to start trying to gather this information, make sure a method is in place to not only conduct required safety meetings but to also keep these records timely, accurate and accessible.

NECA has many resources available to members and contractors that assist in these training needs. They have developed a series of tool-box talks for both wiremen and linemen, created a series of guides based on NFPA 70E for employees and employers, and they have now partnered to provide a safety meeting app that can used on job sites and in the field to conduct these jobsite safety meetings and documentation as required. Please contact NECA Safety or visit the NECA Store online to get more information about these products. Please work safe!