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4 Great Topics for Toolbox Talks in August

Construction workers gathered around listening to a toolbox talk

A toolbox talk is an easy way to conduct safety training. They can be delivered in less than 15 minutes, and a lot of ground can be covered by delivering several toolbox talks on different topics every month.

As noted in our previous post on Hot Topics for Toolbox Talks in July, many people struggle to find the right topics for delivering toolbox talks. In the month of August, you could definitely use some of the July topics (if you didn’t use them already) as the warm summer months share a lot of the same hazards. There are also several other pertinent topics to consider covering in your safety talks and discussions, including the following.

Staying hydrated

One thing that wasn’t fully discussed in the July toolbox talk post was an issue that applies to all industries, all jobs, and all people—hydration. Summer months like August increase the risk of dehydration, especially if you’re working outside.

When it comes to the human body, water regulates body temperature, lubricates joints, cleanses the body of toxins, and even helps with fatigue, memory and mood. Drinking enough water does more than just quench your thirst, as it can also help to prevent a heat-related illness like heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stress or life-threatening heat stroke.

Since over half of our bodies are made up of water, it’s important to replenish it when it’s depleted by bodily functions like sweating and breathing. When you feel thirsty, you could already be dehydrated. In order to keep employees hydrated, allow for extra breaks to cool down and have some water. It is recommended that people drink 8 glasses of water a day. If it’s hot outside, that should be increased to 10 or more glasses a day.

National immunization awareness month

August is national immunization awareness month and the recent pandemic may have people thinking about how up-to-date their vaccines are. This is a great talking point to let employees know that their health—and the health of their loved ones—matters. Vaccines save up to 3 million lives each year. 

Some employees may be vaccine-hesitant and their beliefs may cause them to object to the idea of vaccines. But vaccines aren’t just for children, and educating employees on their benefits could make all the difference for a healthy workplace. The flu vaccine should be received every year before the end of October when flu season starts. A lot of companies offer a flu shot clinic as part of their wellness programs to employees and sometimes they even extend that to their employees’ families.

The Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) recommends a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster shot every 10 years. Healthy adults 50 years and older should get the shingles vaccine. Other vaccines that adults need often include pre-travel-based immunizations, and any vaccines based on job or health conditions.

Vaccines can create herd immunity. This means germs don’t spread as easily from person to person, making it less likely that a group of people will become infected. Educating workers about vaccinations in the workplace can reduce employee absences, increase morale and ultimately provide an overall healthier workplace. In addition to toolbox talks and safety discussions, posters, newsletters, or leaving information in high-traffic areas like breakrooms are a great way to reach people for immunization awareness month. 

PPE in summer

August can be a hot month and wearing PPE when it’s hot outside can be uncomfortable. When workers are uncomfortable, they’re more tempted to remove their PPE just for a little bit to try to get some relief. The only problem is that hazards don’t go away just because the worker is hot, and removing their PPE will increase their risk of injury.

Some of the steps workers can take to remain cool while wearing PPE include taking breaks frequently for water and shade/air conditioning (these should be mandated and logged to ensure appropriate breaks are being taken). Choosing to wear clothes that are a lighter fabric and looser fit can help with air circulation. Moisture-wicking material is a great option in the heat. The color of the clothing can help too, with dark colors absorbing more heat from the sun and a lighter-colored wardrobe will keep workers cooler.

Choosing PPE that is meant for hot weather can help too. This would include hard hats with vents, sweat liners, cooling bandanas, ventilated gloves, and anti-fogging goggles

Back to school

As always, consider discussing an off-the-job safety topic in your next toolbox talk—a timely one for August is back to school.  Street and pedestrian traffic are both increased at this time, which means that the risk of accidents is also higher. Other risk factors include slowdowns caused by bus pick-ups/drop-offs, increased bicycle riding, and excited kids not paying attention to where they’re walking. Some areas will also have reduced speed limits.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 77% of school-age children killed in school-transportation-related crashes were either walking, waiting for the bus, biking, or in another vehicle—not on the bus.

Paying attention to the human factors that may creep in while driving is important. Self-trigger on the rushing, frustration and even the fatigue back to school driving can cause. If you look at others, you may notice that you’re not the only one fatigued. Anticipating errors is a key factor in this situation.  A lot of times the roadway looks clear until a child runs out from between parked cars or buses and a vehicle can’t stop in time. Driving safety is always important, but especially when the shift from summer to back-to-school happens. 

To help with toolbox talk delivery, check out our free guide 15 Tips to Improve Your Toolbox Talks.

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