In the construction industry, many people have concerns in mind about the potential danger that exists on the job site. These dangers can consist of anything including injuries, near misses, and more! We all try our best to be as safe as possible while at work, however, mistakes, equipment malfunctions and other challenges tend to happen. Does this mean that everyone working at a construction site is destined for incidents and injuries? Of course not! In fact, this is exactly why Toolbox Talks are so important.
By holding a regular Toolbox Talk or Tailgate Meeting before starting any work, you can significantly improve safety on the job site. And with that, let’s begin by explaining a little more about how this process can work for you and your team.
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What is a Toolbox Talk?
So, you’re wondering what a toolbox talk is? You’re not alone. In fact, many people (especially those who are new to the industry) ask the same question. So, what is it?
A Toolbox Talk is a quick discussion or presentation that is very informal in nature (no suits required). These talks are part of an organization’s overall safety program (note, they are not the ONLY part of an organizations safety program). These short safety discussions focus on topics related to the specific job that the crew is conducting. The information communicated includes anything related to the work being conducted, including hazards they may encounter and how they can mitigate or prevent it. Toolbox Talks also cover off safe work practices they must be mindful of to ensure their own safety while on the job.
They are used mainly on job sites (usually construction) to discuss the tasks for the day (or week) that will be performed. The Toolbox Talk should provide helpful information about how to perform their tasks safely, and it is an opportunity to discuss possible safety issues that have arisen on the job for others working on similar tasks or in close proximity. These Toolbox Talks should supplement your job hazard assessment, which should be performed for each of the required tasks (and regularly throughout the shift or when conditions change). A toolbox talk is a means to bring attention to any safety issues, and help workers avoid complacency, unsafe shortcuts or other bad habits.
Toolbox Talk meetings are normally short and are usually conducted at the job site prior to the start of a job or work shift. They can be presented as a PowerPoint, video or even a short blurb printed on a sheet of paper (most common). In all honesty, it doesn’t really matter how you present it – what’s important is that the information you’re discussing pertains to the hazards associated with their work. By doing so, you can feel good that you and your team are aware of the dangers. Simply stated, the idea a toolbox talk is that it should promote safety at work, as well as discussions among your crew about health and safety. This is absolutely the recipe for success when it comes to building a solid safety culture.
Who leads the toolbox talk? It should be delivered by a senior and experienced team member who can provide helpful guidance to workers, ensuring they keep safety in mind while on the job. Toolbox talks are usually given by the crew foreman or supervisor, but honestly, anyone from the crew lead, to the company owner can lead a toolbox talk.
For an example of a toolbox talk, click here to see one on cold weather.
What is a tailgate meeting?
Believe it or not, tailgate meetings are the same thing as Toolbox Talks – they just have a different name. Like the Toolbox Talk, it is just an informal safety meeting, which is generally conducted at the job site prior to the commencement of a job or work shift. The person delivering the talk (i.e. Supervisor), can draw attention to hazards, processes, equipment, tools, environment and materials to inform all workers of the risks in their surroundings. Doing so will help ensure all workers involved in the task stay safe during the execution of their task.
The term ‘toolbox talk’ is very popular, but these short discussions can be called by many different names. The name used depends on your company’s culture, industry, or even where you are located in the world.
A toolbox talk can also be called by any of the following names:
- Tailgate Safety Meeting
- Safety Time-outs
- Safety Meeting
- Crew Safety Briefings
- Safety Moment
- Safety Minute
- Weekly Safety Meeting
- Monthly Safety Topic
- Safety Share
How long do Toolbox Talks last?
You may be surprised to learn this, but Toolbox Talks are usually quite brief. In fact, most times they only last about 10 to 15 minutes. This may seem short, but Toolbox Talks are only meant to supplement your existing safety program. You aren’t delivering intense training during these discussions. There really isn’t a rule about the specific time a toolbox talk should last. However, it’s important to note that it should be long enough to ensure the team understands the material brought forth and have every opportunity to ask questions and get clarification on their tasks. Remember, Toolbox talks are meant to be an addition to your existing safety program – they are not replacing compliance training that is required.
How often are toolbox talks held on your site?
The frequency of your toolbox talks or tailgate talks depends on your company, crew and industry you work in. For example, if your employer is performing a labour-intensive job ad you’re required to work daily, then you may want to consider having a toolbox talk each day before work begins. Other companies may have a different type of work taking place (i.e. smaller jobs), and may only require a weekly toolbox talk. When it comes to the frequency of these discussions, you really just need to factor in what you feel your crew needs.
Just remember, you really can’t have too many toolbox talks, safety meetings or training. Besides, a focus on safety is a great way to start the day! Best practice for most companies is to have a weekly toolbox talk, at a minimum. For companies that have fewer on-the-job hazards, a monthly safety meeting may be adequate.
How many people attend a toolbox talk?
The number of people attending a Toolbox Talk may vary. However, generally speaking, attendance usually consists of small groups of up to 10 people. You should ensure everyone who is working on a specific task attends, so they are all aware of the hazards associated with their work.
What is included in a toolbox talk?
As mentioned, a Toolbox Talk is informal, and the objective of the communication is to ensure safety topics related to the job are covered with the ALL workers assigned to the task. You will also want to cover safe work practices that you expect workers to engage in while performing their work. The toolbox talk discussion is your opportunity to refresh workers knowledge of your safe work practices and procedures (they may have forgotten it overtime). You should also aim to create a discussion with your crew in attendance. Please remember that your Toolbox Talk should be an appropriate tone for the audience – try to be motivational and inspire workers to perform their safest work.
So, what’s included in the talk? Well, simply stated, you should include anything related to health and safety that is important to your company. The information should help your employees recognize potential hazards in the workplace.
How do I start a toolbox talk?
One of the most effective ways to start a Toolbox Talk is with a story! People love hearing stories they can relate to. Think about it for a second – if you hear a story from your Supervisor about a time where they had a close call while engaged in a task, do you think that might make more of an impression? Of course! Stories about a personal experience are one of the best ways to convey the message on the importance of safe work activities.
How do I deliver a Toolbox Talk?
The Toolbox Talk is only ever as good as the person delivering it. Anyone can stand in front of a group of people and read line-by-line, but is that really inspiring to workers who are listening? Not really. One of the most important things you can do to ensure a successful Toolbox Talk delivery is to paraphrase any written materials you’re referencing to during the talk. This will prevent you sounding robotic, and the talk will sound much more natural.
Here are some very helpful tips to remember while delivering your Toolbox Talk.
Speak directly to your crew. You will definitely want to make sure that the topic being discussed is relevant to your job site and the tasks that will be completed. The key to success is relevance – make sure the talk resonates with the work the group. Talk specially about the job they will be completing and the hazards that they most certainly will encounter. Try different approaches to get better engagement. For example, try referencing to your employees personal activities, like going to their kids sports game. The idea would be to remind them to work safely so they make it home to attend these activities at the end of their shift. They key to success is making sure the discussion actually matters to those workers who are listening to it. If they don’t feel motivated by your words, you’ll have a very hard time getting (and keeping) their attention. You definitely want to avoid making people feel that you are delivering a toolbox talk because it’s mandatory. Make an effort to show them you genuinely care about their safety and well being.
Be brief. As you’ve probably figured out by now, most people have limited attention spans. Unfortunately, this means that they’ll eventually start tuning you out no matter how important the topic of your safety meeting is. During your toolbox talk, try to stick to the necessary points. If you have additional information to share with your crews, create a printed handout and distribute to them (or hang it on the lunchroom bulletin board). You can also use lengthy communications during a follow-up talk later on. Addressing the same topic a few times (while adding new and relevant content) can help retention and keep the subject interesting.
Be positive. What happens when an incident unfolds? Well, we usually have a negative reaction. Nobody likes negativity, so try making your toolbox talk different. Use the time as an opportunity to encourage safe behavior and improve workplace safety — before an incident takes place. Instead of being a Debbie downer and focusing on what went wrong in the past, try talking about what actually can be done to create a safe work environment. While it is important to bring up unsafe situations, don’t forget to praise the great work they have all been doing. Let them all know how great hey have been at assessing and mitigating hazards associated with their work. Encourage crews to continue being diligent with hazard assessment, and to keep safe work practices and procedures in mind during their shift.
Be interactive. Remember when you were in school, and the teacher was at the front of the room reading from a boring text book? You remember how painful that was? Well, don’t do that while delivering your toolbox talk. You really want to try and be interactive — engage your crew! When they are involved, they are more likely to pay attention and remember all your important points. The key to success is delivering the information in such a way so employees feel positively about the experience — instead of something they dread attending.
No statistics — try stories instead. Yes, statistics are a great way to educate people on the facts, but the information goes in one ear and out the other. So, what do people remember? STORIES! That’s right, the best way to communicate your point is to tell a story. Why is it effective? Well, your listeners can resonate with stories. As they listen, it’s easy for them to relate because this story could be their story! Please remember that stories should also be brief and to the point — and also relevant.
Effective Toolbox Talk Delivery Tips
It’s hard to know the right way to deliver toolbox talks so they aren’t painfully boring (#StopTheSnoring). If you’re new to the industry, or just looking to jazz up your meeting, here are some great tips that can help.
- Choose timely topics. This can include information about safety issues that occur regularly or changes to work areas that crews need to be aware of.
- Give talks regularly: Be sure to select regular intervals to deliver toolbox talks — for example, daily, weekly, monthly. By doing so, you’ll establish and reinforce the importance of safety in your company’s culture.
- Explain the topic importance. At the beginning of the talk, explain why the topic is important and what you expect workers to learn.
- Use a written toolbox talk. A written document will act as a guide to ensure you stay on track during the talk. However, you need to remember that it should still be an informal and conversational presentation.
- Encourage workers to participate. You definitely want crew engagement during the talk. You can encourage this by asking questions about the topic.
- Use visual examples: When you use examples that people can see (i.e. real equipment), it can really help you relay the information.
- Do a wrap-up: At the end of the talk, briefly wrap-up the conversation by reinforcing important points.
- Check employee understanding: Did everyone understand the topic you discussed? Check for understanding by asking crew members to name hazards they may they encounter and how to avoid them.
- Sign attendance form: Have your crew print and sign their names on a written toolbox talk or another sheet to document their attendance.
Always remember that toolbox talks can help employees gain a thorough understanding of how to stay safe while performing their work. It also gives them the opportunity to engage in discussions with co-workers, and offer suggestions on how to improve safety.
How do you make a Toolbox Talk?
Many people have no idea where to start when it comes to the development of a Toolbox Talk. To be perfectly honest, you can use a written document, PowerPoint Presentation or even a video. Some people like to create their Toolbox Talks using Microsoft Word. You can include an area for the topic, the date, and maybe even space for current safety stats. Regardless of how you present it, please keep the discussion informal. This way, people won’t feel scared to ask questions. You should also include a section on questions you want to ask crews – this will help create a conversation! Always encourage participation from your crew either by asking questions or adding their own comments to the topic being discussed. You should also wrap-up the meeting by summarizing a couple important points.
Why it is called toolbox talk?
It may seem obvious, but the name “Toolbox Talk” comes from teams gathering around a toolbox (which is commonly found on a construction site) for the talk. That being said, please know that your Toolbox Talk or Tailgate Talk can happen anywhere on a work site. Just make sure it’s held in an area free of any distractions like loud work taking place, as this could impact people’s ability to hear what you’re saying.
Why are toolbox talks important?
If you’ve ever given or attended a Toolbox Talk, you may find yourself wondering why they are even important. You should never underestimate the importance of toolbox talks. If you are someone who delivers them regularly to workers on your job site, please remember that these talks are your opportunity to reinforce safety basics that your crew may have forgotten about over time. You can also remind them about the dangers associated with the task they are conducting – including any high-risk activities. It’s an excellent opportunity to review any changes to the work site that could impact their work that day. It’s also a great idea to discuss any accidents or injuries that may have occurred in the previous 24 hours so they can be aware of these hazards as well.
Toolbox talks should be conducted on a regular basis to educate workers on safe work practices. This will also ensure that your organization is compliant with regulations regarding safety and training. These talks are also the perfect time to introduce new safety policies and procedures you are implementing as well.
Simply stated, Toolbox Talks are a great way to provide additional training and reinforce the importance of safety at work.
Creating a safety culture at work
As you know, company culture is important to any organization – especially when it comes to safety. Why? Well, it lets employees know what core values you have. It also provides a clear understanding of what’s not acceptable at work. During toolbox talks, you can reinforce to your employees just how important safety is at your company, which actually increases the chances that your crew will think twice before engaging in a dangerous decision that could put them (or a co-worker) in an unsafe situation.
Safety meetings and toolbox talks are important to building a strong safety culture and reinforcing your company’s commitment to protecting your workers. Holding regular safety meetings and toolbox talks can prevent workers from getting complacent and avoid taking safety for granted.
Every project is different (especially in construction), and therefore, has its own unique challenges. This is another reason why toolbox talks are so effective — because just before your crew gets started on their work, you can provide advice and guidance on their specific task, instead of just spouting some general safety tips. Toolbox talks are extremely useful in ensuring that every worker on the same page when it comes to safety every time.