The Magazine of American Municipal Power, Inc. and its Member Communities


Job Briefing

3 min read



May 2023

By Scott McKenzie, senior director of member training and safety

When lineworkers and first responders arrive, they begin by evaluating the scene. A job briefing is a way to continually identify potential hazards, evaluate resources and develop a plan to effectively address an emergency. The job briefing ensures safety on the job and provides actionable information to communicate to other emergency personnel as needed. Incorporating this practice into any line of work or even household projects can help to keep you safe.

How to perform a job briefing

When arriving at a job or encountering an unknown situation, a job briefing calls for an initial assessment of the scene. Look at the big picture, rather than at the individual job, task or situation. Ask the following questions:

  • What is going on? What might have happened?
  • How does the initial information given to me compare to what I am witnessing?
  • Is there an immediate danger present at the scene?

If the scene does not appear to be a dangerous or life-threatening emergency or requires immediate action, take a few minutes following the initial assessment to observe your surroundings. Consider:

  • What hazards do I see?
  • What do I need to do to mitigate the hazard?
  • Are any potential hazards likely to develop?
  • Do I have the necessary tools to perform the job?
  • Is there a written procedure to do the job and/or mitigate the hazards?
  • Has anyone done this job before that I can talk to?
  • Is this a one-person or multiple-person job?
  • What PPE or Personal Protective Equipment do I need?

Can you answer all the questions that you have just asked yourself? If so, it is safe to begin work on the job, but you should remember that the job briefing process does not end here.

These evaluations continue throughout the job, task or situation. As new information is obtained or tasks are completed, the conditions can change, which could require taking a different approach or communicating with others about the changing situation.

 Job briefing scenario

With all this information in mind, let’s look at a scenario that a lineworker may encounter and how they would properly conduct a job briefing.

A major thunderstorm moving across the Midwest knocks out power to a portion of the community. The outage, called in by a local resident, indicates that a tree fell and power lines are laying on the ground.

Knowing this information, as the lineworkers approach the scene, they first assess the situation and conduct an onsite job briefing with all crew members who are present. They notice houses without power and downed power lines at the scene. They take note of one building that still has its lights on.

The lineworker can see that a large tree has fallen and there are wires laying in the street that present a potential hazard. The lineworkers locate the protective device and either disconnect power to the area or ensure that the cutout or energy source is open.

Once they ensure that the wires on the ground are not energized, the lineworkers effectively ground the wires and barricade the area keeping the public away from the designated work zone. As they continue to perform a 360-degree assessment of the surroundings, they take note of the damage that has been sustained. Immediately, they note that one of the nearby poles has sustained major damage, though it is still standing. They also note that there is still one house nearby with its lights still on.

Following this assessment of their surroundings, the lineworkers have noticed several new and important pieces of information that they must confer with their colleagues. The new information about the damaged electric pole and house with lights on will change the way the electric utility responds to the situation.

The damaged pole presents a new hazard and will need to be replaced in order to restore power, and the lineworkers on the scene do not have the necessary tools to perform the job and mitigate risks. The house with lights on may present a backfeed risk from a generator or distributed generation installation that the utility was unaware of.

A documented job briefing is essential in identifying hazards, determining resources needed, and developing a plan of action for one person or a team. By continually taking stock of the situation, the lineworkers make their job safer and ensure that responding crew members arrive on the scene safely and with the necessary equipment.

For more information on size-up evaluations or other electric safety topics, please contact me at [email protected].

To learn about safety training opportunities, visit the safety programs page of the AMP website.