A toolbox talk is an undervalued—and perhaps misunderstood—form of communication. They are a good way to start the day and get a pulse on what’s going on with your employees. If you’re not already delivering regularly scheduled safety toolbox talks, you can start by aiming for weekly or monthly talks.
Toolbox talks are short (maximum 15 minutes), informative sessions that could also be considered a form of training. They are a less intensive way to reach employees, especially when you need to educate workers on new legislation or regulations, company policies, procedures or best practices. It’s a good idea to make sure you keep a record that it was delivered, and so that you can make sure you don’t repeat the exact same topic in future toolbox talks.
If you’ve searched the internet for an easy solution to your toolbox talk problem, you’ve likely come up short of your expectations. But coming up with your own toolbox talk content isn’t impossible. Take a look at your industry, the month, the season, and you’ll have plenty of ideas to get you started.
And check out our free guide to help you with the rest—it’s full of tips to help with things like your presentation delivery, how to craft a story to gain better engagement from your audience, or how to mix in overlapping factors like human factors.
Here are a few ideas for great toolbox talks for July, though they may be suitable for other summer months too.
In most parts of the world, July belongs to summery weather. A natural topic would be heat-related illnesses. It’s a safety issue that is often overlooked until it’s too late. Heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke if left unattended, and heat stroke can be fatal.
Start your July toolbox talk by letting employees know what symptoms to look out for. Heat exhaustion symptoms can seem fairly common when working in the heat: excessive thirst, moist cool skin, fatigue, headache, weakness, fainting or dizziness, muscle cramps, and nausea. To treat these symptoms, workers should be taken to a cool area and given cold liquids to drink. Wet cloths should also be placed on their forehead and around the back of their neck. If heat exhaustion progresses to heat stroke, the symptoms become slurred speech, confusion or disorientation, agitation, rapid pulse, seizure, hallucinations, dry but hot skin, and loss of consciousness. When heat stroke is suspected, you need to call 911 immediately. Symptoms can come on without warning so it’s imperative that you act fast.
When discussing heat-related illnesses, start by talking about prevention and encourage workers to increase their fluid intake by giving regular water breaks. Another important element is appropriate clothing and sunscreen and revisit this topic again to make sure employees maintain their training. If you like to celebrate national days at your workplace, mark down July 31—it’s National Heat Stroke Prevention Day.
Make sunscreen required PPE
When working in the heat, you’re often working in the sun. The direct sunlight during peak sun hours increases the risk of not only heat stress but being affected by skin cancer, among other health issues caused by sun exposure. It’s easy for workers to become complacent about the sun so you need to educate them on what the UV index means.
A UV index rating of 3–5 indicates moderate risk, 6–7 is high risk, 8–10 very high and 11 or more is extreme. Employees need to pay attention when the UV Index is 3 or higher. The same way a hard hat is required on a construction site, sunscreen needs to be required for outdoor workers.
Use broad-spectrum and water(sweat)-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 on skin not covered by clothing. Wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible, covering the head, neck and ears where possible. In addition to making sunscreen required PPE, helping workers create the habit of applying sunscreen year-round will protect them from complacency about sun risks.
During summer months, a lot of people take vacations—focusing on an off-the-job safety topic in July will show employees that their lives matter to the company even when they’re not at work.
One possibility is fireworks, because July is national fireworks safety month. A lot of the firework safety tips seem like common sense but they are forgotten in the moment. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 180 people a day on average go to the emergency room with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the July 4th holiday (June 22–July 22). This will likely increase with coronavirus precautions as group fireworks displays move to backyard do-it-yourself events. Some fireworks safety tips to include in summer safety talks include:
- Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this symbolizes they were made for professional displays.
- Do not consume drugs and/or alcohol before lighting fireworks.
- Never place any part of your body (including eyes) directly over fireworks when lighting the fuse.
- Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that did not ignite fully.
- Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire.
- After the fireworks show is complete, douse the spent fireworks casings and surrounding area with plenty of water before discarding it to prevent a fire.
If you don’t think the topic of fireworks will resonate with your employees, there are a number of other off-the-job safety issues you could cover. Think about the things they like to do with their families away from work. Swimming, water and boat safety are topics that could make a relevant toolbox talk. Other options include fire pit safety and DIY projects.
Regardless of which safety concerns you discuss in your July toolbox talks, it’s worth taking the time to think about which topics will be most relevant to your audience, as it can pay off in stronger engagement and safety awareness on whatever you cover about in your safety talk.