Toolbox talks originated as a way to encourage workers to have regular safety meetings—and since they congregated around a toolbox every morning, it became a fitting name for these meetings (another variation is a tailgate meeting, because, you guessed it, they happen when workers gather around the back of a pickup truck).
Toolbox talks not only help with safety compliance but can also foster employee engagement and build a positive safety culture. Even though these talks are short in duration (they should not exceed 15 minutes), there does need to be some planning to ensure they go off without a hitch. Our free guide 15 Tips to Improve Your Toolbox Talks will help with delivery.
This post deals specifically with the topics that are discussed in your regular toolbox meetings. Toolbox talk topics need to be relevant to those attending the meeting. Historically, these topics revolve around the worksite and cover areas of risk determined in the site risk assessment. Because toolbox talks are less formal than a safety meeting, they are the perfect opportunity to spark a conversation among the people on site.
Once on-site issues have been addressed in a toolbox talk, it can be hard to find relevant topics, especially if you’re delivering them daily. The time of year often provides hazards that are applicable on most job sites—check out the sample of topic suggestions below.
The winter months can generate toolbox talk topics from the weather alone. Snow, ice and cold temperatures will increase the number of slip, trip and fall incidents. A toolbox talk with prevention tips for slips, trips and falls is a great reminder to workers who may have become complacent to those risks. Slip, trip and fall prevention can often involve snow removal—and with that comes another host of risks that people often don’t think about. Injuries are possible from shoveling and from using a snowblower, both of which can lead to back injuries and worse. Sometimes a simple reminder of the risks that seem glaringly obvious is enough to trigger people to avoid injuries.
Cold stress is a very real possibility in the winter months, but most people are surprised to learn this is true even on mild days. Dampness, wind speed and wind chill can lead to health issues from cold stress. Discussing symptoms and prevention measures in a toolbox talk can go a long way—especially for people who work outside.
Spring showers bring May flowers—and they also create hazards that you wouldn’t normally think of. Housekeeping on a job site is important, especially when those spring showers create wet and muddy surfaces. Falls are the leading cause of death and serious injuries on the construction site for a reason.
Another contributing factor to serious injuries and fatalities in the spring is fatigue caused by daylight saving time. Losing that hour of sleep not only causes fatigue but can slow down reflexes and reaction time and cause people to be more distracted. This not only impacts people on the job but can impact them anytime (think about when they’re driving or let their guard down when doing stuff around the house). Delivering a quick spring toolbox talk on these topics can be the difference between a close call/serious injury and prevention. Another timely toolbox talk in the spring revolves around spring break, which often involves talking about off-the-job safety (if you haven’t started talking about this already, why not?). Draw attention to the increased/different traffic than normal during spring break—drivers and pedestrians may be more distracted than usual so extra attention should be applied during this time.
Similar to the spring break talk, you may also want to do a few talks on summer safety. A lot of people travel during the summer, and this summer safety page can be a great resource for summer toolbox talks. In addition to traffic, things that can leave lasting impacts on a person like boating and swimming safety are also great topics to cover. Other summer off-the-job topics include firework safety, fire pit safety and DIY project safety.
The need to stay hydrated during the warm summer months applies to both on- and off-the-job safety. People may become more susceptible to heat illness when they’re dehydrated—especially people who work outside. Heat-related illnesses go well beyond just making your workers uncomfortable. It’s important for them to know the signs, symptoms and treatment options from heat exhaustion to heat stroke because if the symptoms reach heat stroke status, immediate medical attention is required.
Some great fall season toolbox talk topics include things like back-to-school safety and holiday safety (namely Thanksgiving and Halloween). Daylight saving time ends the first Sunday in November, and when the clocks go back, it gets darker earlier, meaning steps need to be taken to address safety issues like driving at night or safety in the parking lot.
Daylight saving time is also a good trigger that the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors need to be replaced. It’s a good idea to update emergency escape plans at work and at home at this time and determine any new risks that may have come up since the plan was last reviewed.
Autumn is also the start of flu season, and given the recent pandemic, your employees may already be well-versed in prevention strategies. But if your workplace offers a vaccination clinic or your wellness program has things that can help, a fall toolbox talk is a great way to highlight what your company offers to employees and their families.
Whether you’re delivering toolbox topics based on the seasons or you’re focused on giving safety talks based on each individual month, we have lots of suggestions like national days/weeks/months that serve as good topics—in fact, we’ve done a post for each month outlining these topics to make it easier for you to find the information. Remember, when determining which topics to cover in a toolbox talk, it’s important to ensure the topics are relevant to your audience. Once all site-specific topics are covered, these general topics can really relate to any audience.