On the day the crew was setting trusses, I held a safety meeting first thing to explain our methods for that site, that day. This meeting is not just a formality — I can’t stress enough the practical importance of the morning safety briefing. It’s especially crucial in a case like this, where you can’t rely on conventional methods to ensure your workers’ safety. If you put a bunch of guys out on the job who don’t have a big-picture awareness of the project as a whole, they won’t appreciate the serious danger posed by a 300-pound truss swinging over their heads and coming into place, or the risk associated with stacking a series of unstable trusses on the walls. I need every member of the crew to understand both his own purpose and the overall significance of the day’s activities. Too often on residential sites, this kind of knowledge is lacking.
At our meeting, each crew member got a copy of notes I’d written up in the form of an outline. I’d actually prepared a more extensive handout, but my computer had crashed the night before and I couldn’t print, so I quickly photocopied some blank meeting forms and entered in my main points by hand. That was good enough for our purposes.
Of course I could remember what I needed to discuss without any notes, but they served as documentation: I had the men sign their copies and pass them in to show they were present at the meeting. That way, if someone got injured and OSHA asked me, “Was that guy briefed?” I would be able to prove that yes, he was.
The outline also helped the guys stay on the same page with me as I conducted my talk. It highlighted the main points of our safety plan for that day:
- Alternative procedures
- Controlled access zones
- Bracing the trusses
- Restricted duties
- Procedures for working at the peak
So let’s go over what I talked about.
I started off by reminding everyone that the safety rules we always practice were still in effect. We have standard operating procedures for ladder safety and cord safety, for making sure there are no holes in the deck that someone could trip on or fall into, for keeping the site cleaned up, and so forth. The crew knows these rules because they’re in our safety manual and we’ve discussed them at previous meetings.
Since we had set up scaffolding — complete with railings supported by outriggers — along the building’s outside walls, the men working at the ends of the trusses would be covered by our standard safety program. But we needed alternative procedures for the men working the peaks of the trusses, and these were methods I had devised for this particular situation. I stressed to the guys that understanding and sticking to this plan — even though it wasn’t in our printed safety manual — was critical to everybody’s safety that day. The actual components of the plan were the other four items in my outline.