Getting Real Value out of your Daily PTPs

November 14, 2019/by Barry Nelson

As an Area Safety Manager for DPR Construction, Lane Smith works with 10 safety managers covering $800M worth of work in Austin, TX. Safety is in Lane’s DNA.

For over two decades, he’s dedicated his career to reducing incidents by engaging those closest to the work. But more often than not, Lane has found that organizations use counterintuitive, counterproductive ways to engage those who really need to get “switched on” in the morning. Take, for example, the prevalence of paper-based Pre-Task Plans (PTP).

“You ask your foremen to complete a PTP and post it on a wall. Workers go by, look at them and initial them in the morning. Management then has to review and initial these, and provide coaching. In reality, this may happen halfway through the day, but at that point, what kind of impact are you going to have?” says Lane.

“As a Safety Manager, you dream of saving lives.”

“Instead with this paper-based process, my interaction goes from helping people to being the jerk that’s asking people to stop what they’re doing, to go do something for compliance. That’s a negative experience for the safety professional and those closest to the work.” says Lane.

Although the Pre-Task Plan or Job Hazard Analysis started out with great intentions, its use was broken, and Lane was determined to improve it.

How do you extract value from PTPs?

Not surprisingly, taking a stand against long-standing organizational activities like the paper-based PTP creates internal friction. “Safety manuals dictate what you will use and do. No one wants to tick the box, but in the process, they lose the plot on why we do a PTP to begin with,” says Lane. He laments the fact that once PTPs are reviewed and checked off, they go into a box and get sent to Iron Mountain (for record management) for 10 years.

“After the day is done, there’s zero value in the information workers are putting in each day.”

Lane knew he wasn’t alone when it came to how he felt, and he wanted to shine the light on this issue with others who felt the same. In particular, he had in mind a high-risk site that already had recordables and whose teams were disengaged.

This disengagement wasn’t a surprise to Lane. “The first thing we do in the morning is break a policy, a known safety process. We say we do this planning but we pencil whip it. Imagine if we were in a restaurant kitchen, and didn’t wash our hands before cooking food. What does that do to the culture? It’s the same here,” says Lane.

Even if forms are filled, there’s a steep slope to extract value from the PTPs. Lane likens the PTP to a shopping list for a home improvement project, wherein the person who wrote out the list had to think through the job, then decide what to buy. “It’s the person that did the thinking behind the plan that gets the value. But if you hand that list over to someone else, he gets a lot less. Just as in safety, the guy who hears the list read to him gets no value—even if he signs it. It’s just a check box to cover the rules,” says Lane.

A PTP to help focus resources and personalize training

Everyone agreed that the process was broken, and that something different and better was needed. Personally, Lane wanted to know where to focus and invest his limited time. “Unless I go every morning to all the different sessions, I don’t have a clear picture of who I can help the most,” says Lane.

Lane turned to SmartTagIt to help him direct his time and resources. SmartTagIt is focused on helping teams get back to the real intention of PTPs—engaging those closest to the work in a healthy, well-planned daily safety conversation. It automates PTPs and enriches them by allowing users to integrate and share photos and videos alongside the captured information. Lane rolled out SmartTagIt with 10 contractors at his high-risk site, encouraging his crews to ask questions, get their guys involved, and make it a discussion.

“SmartTagIt was super easy to launch,” says Lane. “It was really neat, because the guys really liked not having to keep up with the paper, and asking questions. It’s the only safety management system where I have project teams asking when they can get it, because they see it as better right away.”

With SmartTagIt, Lane now delivers personalized training—instead of a one-size-fits-all training—that he knows makes a long-term difference. “Every person is in a different place with skills and desires. They’re doing what they think they’re supposed to do, but no one’s really trained them. Now, I can look at what they’re saying and what they’re doing, recognize a great job and ask questions about a specific task. It’s more specific to them.

When you move from getting people to do something, to trying to personally help them grow, people can tell the difference and you can feel that,” says Lane.

Lane believes that SmartTagIt provides line of sight into the leadership culture of his projects.

“We often take out best worker, promote him and make him our worst supervisor, with no more than a wish for good luck. That leads to a leadership crisis, not a safety crisis. This tool, even though it’s for safety, is a leadership tool that helps coach great safety leaders to be what they used to be 15 years ago.”

Since May, Lane’s team has built a library of over 1100 daily planning conversations. He is using this library to train, reward and recognize his safety and leadership teams. The number of users and contractors has grown from 10 to 22. Additionally, he is using conversation content to dive deeper on high hazard topics, or examine how often “struck by” is captured on the document versus discussed in the conversation. He’s also taken advantage of audio analysis to identify areas of improvement.

Compared to a neighboring duplicate project with the same schedule and trades, Lane’s site saw a 50% reduction in incidents in the same 4-month period.

Being able to see the growth and improvement in his field’s engagement has been tremendously satisfying for Lane.

“We’ve been able to invest in people. When project teams engage, and have a positive coaching interaction, that’s when we really win the hearts and minds of those closest to the work—which is why I do this job in the first place,” says Lane.