Last edited 15 Jan 2021



A briefback, or ‘briefing-back’, is the process of reviewing and going back over instructions to ensure they have been understood. This is often necessary due to the potential for misinterpretation, confusion, or incorrect assumptions when information is conveyed. It involves the person/s receiving instructions providing an overview or synopsis of the information, allowing the person giving the instructions to assess whether further clarification is required.

Briefing-back is of particular importance on a construction site during safety briefings to ensure workers are fully aware of risks and hazards they face on site, and toolbox talks which relate to specific site safety issues. As construction site workers may not be native English speakers, the person conveying the information is advised to use the briefback technique to make sure they have been correctly understood.

There are several purposes for using the briefback technique. If recipients of instructions know that they may be called on to ‘brief-back’, they may be more likely to provide their full attention. It can also mean that everyone has the same understanding of the task at hand. In addition, repetition helps with retention of information. This can all help reduce inefficiencies such as having to re-do work or repeat instructions if it becomes clear that they were misunderstood. It also allows those providing the information to refine their instructions and learn the best way to communicate.

Briefback can involve picking certain people at random and asking them to repeat different parts of the information, i.e. trying to include everyone. However, if there are too many people and/or time is too short, only specific questions about the most important parts of the information should be asked, thereby gaining a quick appreciation of how well the instructions were understood. If the information conveyed is particularly complicated, more specific questions should be asked, and the recipients should be encouraged to ask their own questions in turn.

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