A Smarter Way to Pre-Task Plan: A Subcontractor’s Experience

September 16, 2018/by Barry Nelson

Current safety planning practices are often repetitious and crews are left unengaged, or ‘switched off’, which means they are more likely to miss critical safety issues.

SmartTagIt fosters quality planning by reducing the monotony, and is a forum for crew leaders to have meaningful safety discussions and interactions with their teams.

By observing field leader interactions, SmartTagIt becomes a valuable training tool for safety managers that allows them to prioritize and tailor pre-task plan training for field leaders. It’s this quality planning combined with focused training that leads to improved safety outcomes.

A Mechanical Subcontractor’s Perspective of SmartTagIt

Lane Smith, Safety Director at Porter shares his experience with SmartTagIt and tells us how it has improved both worker engagement in safety planning practices, and safety outcomes.

Here’s what he had to say:

What was the safety planning process like before?

Lane: “Every crew filled out a pre-task plan prescribed by the project. Crews are typically doing the same tasks day after day, which means for the most part they were just re-writing yesterday’s plan. Because the process was so repetitious, the field guys didn’t read it everyday, and through the monotony they’d switch off and miss critical issues.”

In managing his teams, Lane says depending on experience and other factors; the quality of paper pre-task plans will vary considerably from one crew to another. But regardless of plan quality, his field leaders were not engaging their crews in discussion or conversation.

What made you feel the need to change/do something different?

Lane: “I believe the value of pre-tasking planning diminishes on a very steep curve, from the person writing and developing it to the end user who may only be told what is in the plan. Most supervisors and field guys agree we’re not doing quality safety planning. By continuing these practices, we send out a message that it’s okay to break the rules, which leads to poor safety culture.”

Describe the safety planning process using SmartTagIt

Lane: “SmartTagIt allows me to be in touch with what’s happening on a project, and within a team.”

The supervisor still is required to develop the plan, but SmartTagIt makes it much quicker to complete. Multiple entities can access and review it, Lane can make comments, and he can see the interactions his crews are having by reviewing daily safety video recordings.

How has SmartTagIt changed your interactions with the field guys?

Lane: “With the old process, I would approach a worker and request their pre-task plan. Next, I would ask questions to determine whether they have absorbed the information in the plan.”

Senior safety leadership can utilize interactions captured using SmartTagIt to quickly identify issues, and respond to field leaders without interrogation.

Lane: “If I see an issue and I do need to go and investigate, through video recordings I already know what’s been said, and in the spirit that it was said. Using SmartTagIt the approach can be framed with the intent that you are there to help.”

How has SmartTagIt helped you be more successful?

Lane: “I can watch, coach, and watch again.”

Safety talk video recordings gives Lane a starting point with each field leader about where they are on their journey. From there he can prioritize who needs the most help, and then tailor his pre-task plan training to the specific needs of each person.

Are you working safer? If so, how?

Lane: “Since implementing SmartTagIt, we have seen fewer jobsite incidents and injuries.”

Through his tailored pre-task plan training, Lane has seen a marked improvement in those crews’ safety talks, and their safety outcomes have improved.

What were the challenges with implementation? Would you do anything differently?

As a subcontractor, ensuring the general contractor is confident with the new process up front is key to success.

Almost every general contractor initially rejected SmartTagIt for project pre-task planning. Lane says this was largely due to company safety systems that don’t support innovation.

Lane: “When it’s new and difficult, as soon as an issue arises the first reaction is to stop using SmartTagIt and revert to the old process.”

This response can be avoided by investing time up front on training so that the general contractor feels confident in the new process right from the start.

Lane: “In the field, some workers were nervous about standing in front of camera. We suggested they just pan the camera back the forth so that we can see who was present, but reassured them that they don’t have to be in front of camera. Also, we take turns with who conducts the meeting, the guys feel better knowing that everyone is in the same boat.”

What are the three most important lessons you have learned relative to improving daily safety planning?

  1. The field agrees that there is a better way to do daily safety planning
  2. General contractors are largely in favor of improving pre-task planning practices but struggle with implementation
  3. This process has highlighted the lack of leadership skills in some of our front-line leaders. SmartTagIt provides an opportunity for organizations to focus their resources on training those who are leading safety discussions.