A Guide to Effective Electrical Job Briefings

The electrical job briefing is a chance for workers to stop and think before starting any electrical job.

Whether you are in oil & gas, pulp & paper, mining or manufacturing automotive parts, electrical work is inherently dangerous and should always be treated with respect.

After reviewing hundreds of incident reports it is clear to me that adding a few extra steps into the beginning of the work routine will greatly reduce the number pf injuries and fatalities caused from arc flash or shock.

These extra steps are part of what’s called a job briefing and by following the practices outlined in this article it will help you to create a safer work environment for all.

The job briefing thought process

The following depiction shows the overall thought process and flow of an electrical job and subsequent job briefing.

The goal is that the job briefing aligns the workers and acts as a reminder to discuss all parts of the job.

Use a blank sheet of paper, the back of a napkin or your smartphone… what you right the job briefing down on doesn’t matter as much as the thought that you put into it.


What’s important when preparing for the job?

Determine personnel, time frame, and equipment

  • List any workers who will be associated with the job.

  • Write the time and date (Ii the job takes longer than one day you’ll need to start another job briefing upon your return… things could have changed).

  • List all the associated field equipment for the job.

Identify & summarize the critical tasks

This step is absolutely critical.

To many job procedures and pre-job plans focus on the overall task rather than the activities it takes to get it done.

An example would be “changing a motor”… that might be what you are doing today, but to make sure you’ve thought through all the steps and times you might be at risk you should be writing down and discussing things like “disconnect the motor”, “testing for absence of voltage” and “start up commissioning tests”.

To determine what the most critical tasks are you can ask yourself these questions prior to starting the work (this is not an all-inclusive list):

  • What tasks include a human error factor?

  • Will you be testing and/or troubleshooting?

  • Will you be establishing an electrically safe work condition?

  • Will you be exposed to energized equipment?

It’s time like these when people get hurt or equipment is damaged.

Gather resources

Depends on where you work as some places have fantastic records and others have no records at all.

Gather the resources that you can that will help perform the task in an efficient and safe manner.

Some examples may be:

  • Single line diagrams

  • Vendor prints

  • Job plans

  • Procedures

  • Emergency plan

How to determine hazards and approach boundaries

The arc flash and shock hazard warning label will have all the necessary information.

If no label is present, use alternative methods discussed in CSAZ462 or NFPA70E (i.e. arc flash PPE category method).


Does a shock hazard exist for this task/job?

Follow this flow-chart and if it is determined that a shock hazard exists the use of rubber insulated PPE is required to complete that particular task/job.


Does an arc flash hazard exist?

Follow this flow-chart and if it is determined that an arc flash hazard exists the use of arc flash PPE is required to complete that particular task/job.


Tasks likely to cause an arc flash

Another thing you’ll need to determine is what tasks have a higher risk of causing an arc flash.

This isn’t a definitive list, but you can bet that under any circumstance these tasks can always be treated as having a high risk of arc flash (as long as the equipment is capable of an arc flash… so you don’t have to worry about low low voltages for example):

  • Opening hinged/bolted doors or covers (to expose bare conductors);

  • Removal or installation of circuit breakers or switches;

  • Insertion or removal of individual start buckets from MCC;

  • Work on or near energized electrical conductors;

  • Voltage testing.

What is a normal operating condition?

There are some tasks you might think could cause an are flash but are really considered a normal operation of the equipment… so if done properly, those tasks have an inherently low risk of arc flash.

Normal operating conditions are true if:

  • the equipment is properly installed

  • the equipment is properly maintained; and

  • the equipment is used in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations; and

  • all equipment doors are closed and secured; and

  • all equipment covers are in place and secured; and

  • there is no evidence of impending failure such as arcing, overheating, loose or bound equipment parts, visible damage, or deterioration (use your senses; look, listen, touch, smell).

How does normal operating condition impact arc flash?

Regardless of the task, if equipment is not functioning under normal operating conditions (abnormal condition) then it should be treated as an arc flash hazard (as long as the equipment is rated 240 volts and above).

Selection of appropriate PPE

If an arc flash or shock hazard exists (see above flow charts), PPE will be selected based on the incident energy and voltage levels respectively.

Set up barricades

Barricades (or stand by attendants) will be placed at either the limited approach boundary or the arc flash boundary, whichever is greatest.

Complete the work!

Now it’s time to get the job done!

This all might seem like a lot, but once you get into the flow of things you can complete a job briefing very quickly.


Adding an electrical job briefing to your electrical safety arsenal might just be the best thing you do all year to improve your safety standards.

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You can reach me on Twitter/Insta @jonmtravis or email me at jon@leafelectricalsafety.com