I’m sure we’ve all attended many project kickoff meetings. Mostly these were boring, generic and we’ve barely taken any notice of what was been said. Somewhat like listening to the safety briefing on an aeroplane, just before take-off – you’ve heard it all before. But just as listening to the safety briefing on the aeroplane could be the difference between you surviving an air crash or not, so to could that project safety meeting be the difference between life and death.
Some aircrews try and spice up the safety briefing by adding a few quirks and jokes. But even these can become boring for regular flyers.
Most construction projects delegate the safety advisor to present the project induction. Often these are done as a ‘tick and flick’ exercise, which consists of reading a list of ‘do’s and don’ts’ and signing the bottom of the piece of paper.
Site kickoff meetings should be more than only focussing on generic safety issues. They are an opportunity to welcome new workers, explain what they’ll be doing on the project, and give them an understanding of where they’ll be working and how they’ll fit into the contractor’s organisational structure. It’s an opportunity to discuss project rules, ensure new workers understand the quality requirements and know what’s expected of them, and of course, it’s vital to highlight specific safety issues that will be encountered on the project.
What to include in project kick-off meetings
I generally include the following in project inductions:
- a welcome from the project manager
- a brief overview of the project, which could include who the client is, a description of the overall project, the specific structures being constructed and the overall project duration
- the current status of the project, the milestones already achieved and milestones due in the near future
- specific problems encountered on the works, or that may be encountered
- if there are new employees, then a brief overview of the company
- the company values
- a section focussed on the workers themselves, which covers:
- work hours
- daily transport
- location of toilets, offices, stores and lunch room facilities
- project rest days (personnel are often focussed on their personal problems and questions, so once these are addressed they will be more focussed on the content of the rest of the induction)
- the overall project management structure, mentioning people by name and their individual responsibilities
- project specific rules such as:
- areas that personnel must not enter
- site access routes
- company disciplinary and grievance procedures, including which offences will result in workers being removed from the project or dismissed
- safety (this shouldn’t just be a discussion on general safety topics but should focus on the actual project specific safety rules and hazards)
- The location of emergency equipment and emergency evacuation routes and muster stations
- environmental issues which should include:
- site boundaries
- environmentally sensitive areas
- local fauna and flora that may be encountered
- procedures should local fauna be encountered
- disposing and segregating of waste
- actions in the event of an accidental spill of liquids that could cause pollution
- procedures to follow if a worker becomes ill or injured, either during work hours or after work
- emergency contact details (a useful practice is for employees to be given a small laminated card listing emergency contact details, which can fit into a pocket to be carried with them at all times)
- the quality expectations for the project
At all stages of the meeting, employees should be encouraged to ask questions.
Lastly, if possible, new employees should be introduced to the person they’ll be reporting to.
Everyone who attends the kickoff must sign an attendance sheet which must be kept with the safety records. I would also consider setting a brief questionnaire for the participants to confirm they have heard and understood the information.
Don’t forget to ensure that the induction is updated regularly because progress and rules change as the project progresses, as may staff.
Too often we expect our workers to know what’s expected of them. They arrive on site and are expected to know the rules, the work times, acceptable behaviours and who to raise queries with. Sometimes workers are treated like sheep, herded from one project to the next with no inkling of what they are building or how long they’ll be there. Then when things go wrong management blames the employee who possibly didn’t know better.
Use inductions to welcome workers to the project, making them part of it. Importantly, ensure that everyone understands the project rules and is aware of the project risks. A proper project kickoff will help avoid problems later.