Pre-Task Planning: Building a Proactive Safety Culture



Contributed by Jay Bice – HSE Manager


Pre-Task Planning: Building a Proactive Safety Culture

Many things have changed over the last 20 years in the industrial industry, however, the belief that “it will never happen to me” is not one of them. I repeatedly hear employees say, “I never could have imagined I would smash my finger” or “I never thought I would trip and break my leg on the extension cord that is always laying out.” Truthfully, we all assume this idea at some point in our lives.

The false belief that experience makes you invulnerable is a key contributor to accidents. Complacency can be the most dangerous mindset and claims countless victims every day. How do people get complacent enough that they will do something that they know contributes to making an error, such as texting while driving or not using proper fall protection while working at height? Everyone gets complacent with things they have done repeatedly however, there are methods to change this behavior, such as pre-task planning.

Pre-task planning, such as a JSA or JHA, allows for the safety culture to be transformed from a reactive “fix what caused the accident” culture to a proactive “find and fix hazards before the accident happens” one. Companies should not be simply reacting after something dangerous happens. They should strive to identify and eliminate hazards before an accident occurs. If a company can discover hazards when they are in an early stage and eliminate them, it improves system reliability and minimizes risk of an incident occurring. This, in turn, avoids system shutdowns and saves money.  For example, if a large leak is detected, a plant may need to shut down for a number of days to remedy the situation. Being able to predict the failure and fix it before it fails will result in significant financial savings.

Some basic steps to pre-task planning include:

  1. Defining the work assignment
    • What is the task at hand?
    • What written procedures, policies, and specifications need to be reviewed?
  2.  Identifying all job hazards
    • What could go wrong?
    • What is the worst thing that could happen if something does go wrong?
  3. Devising hazard controls
    • Do I have all the necessary training and knowledge to do this job properly?
    • Do I have all the proper tools and PPE?
  4. Performing work with new hazard controls
    • How will task be performed within the identified hazard controls?
    • How will this change the basic approach to performing the task at hand?
  5. Reviewing controls and providing feedback
    • What changes to the scope of work or hazard control measures occur?
    • What work processes need to be reviewed?

Effective pre-task planning will transform your safety culture from reactive to proactive by encouraging all levels of employees to actively participate in identifying and solving problems, reducing complacency and embodying the spirit of continuous improvement, and increasing overall safety awareness. The challenge is to engage your employees in a manner where they become empowered to complete and communicate a quality JSA or be an active participant in the company behavior-based safety process. The basics of hazard identification are a critical component to creating a safe workplace. As Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”


Jay Bice H+M Industrial EPC

Jay Bice – HSE Manager at H+M Industrial EPC

Certificate of Technology in Occupational Health and Safety 

Jay has more than 20 years of industrial health and safety, experience in construction, pipeline environmental services and petrochemical facilities. He is responsible for developing and executing safety and health policy and objectives for H+M, as well as any sub-contractor workforce all of which represents exposure of a high risk nature. Jay provides management oversight to various safety and occupational health related programs. These programs include injury prevention, fire and emergency services, behavior safety, drug and alcohol prevention, training and occupational health. Jay is a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers.