3 crucial components for supervisor field visits

Guy Chenard
As a supervisor, you are required to spend some of your time evaluating your workers in the workplace. By observing them in the field, you can verify that the actual working conditions, at the job site, are within the acceptable requirements identified in the safe work plan. This allows you to confirm that the work is being performed safely and that all hazards are being controlled.

Typically, these field visits are performed daily and comprise of the following three components:

•Determine if any significant changes may have happened that can impact the workers. Any changes must be identified, communicated and controlled by the workers before allowing the work to continue.

•Observe the workers doing the job to ensure they are maintaining good safe behaviour while meeting the intent of the safe work plan. Any risky behaviour or unsafe working conditions must be corrected immediately.

•Provide positive feedback to the workers, especially, when acknowledging good performance. All field visit observations should be documented for reference purposes.

The safe work plan I mentioned above is a document that provides the work crew with a method to identify the hazards, assess the risk and to review (accept) the work before the job starts. Most of these documents are signed by the workers and the supervisor.

The safe work plan should be developed with the assistance of the workers to ensure they were involved with the process. Their knowledge of the work is important and it also ensures their right to participate in safety at work. It should be reviewed daily by the work crew and be revised should any changes be found that can influence the safety of the crew.

A typical safe work plan includes:

•emergency telephone numbers
•crew information
•other work groups present at site
•job safety analysis (JSA)
•procedures and drawings
•work protection (LOTO)
•emergency considerations
•public safety
•environmental considerations
•job demands
•barrier/control measures
•supervisory field visits (date and time)
•pre-job briefings
•completion of work.

You should be using the safe work plan as a guideline when reviewing the work location, safety compliance and to identify any potential work site issues.

The field visit is essentially a visual assessment of the work site and the workers performing the job. To perform this visual assessment, I suggest that supervisors use the organization’s managed system workplace elements (people, procedures, equipment and environment).

•People: Observe the communication process used by the workers. Make sure that the work coordination is adequate and that the workers are not directly exposed to stored or dynamic energy. Monitor that they are not rushing or bypassing safety controls. Verify each worker’s body position to detect any potential for musculoskeletal injuries.

•Procedure: Examine that the workers are abiding by the job safety analysis and the work plan. Often, the organization has safety documents available such as lock-out/tag-out procedures and these should be referenced and used by the workers. Note if the workers have identified and corrected any changes to the job.

•Equipment: Verify that the workers are using the right tools and equipment and that they have been properly inspected prior to commencing the work. They should be using all of the of the necessary safety devices to perform the work.

•Environment: Assess all of the physical work conditions including high winds, lightning, rain, sun (heat), visibility in the work area, air quality, soil conditions and housekeeping. This particular element is prone to changes during job execution and may require more of your attention.

You will require a good understanding of the legal and company safety requirements before you can properly evaluate the workers in the field. This includes all of the safety rules, policies and procedures available at the work site.

Lastly, you will need to document your observations and ensure that corrective actions have been taken to rectify any unsafe conditions.

As a supervisor, your work involves many details that require a substantial amount of your time to ensure not only that you fulfill your responsibilities but that your workers are safe. During these field visits, it is important that you properly focus your efforts when evaluating the workers’ performance in order to maximize the quality of time spent on the job site.