Toolbox talks are a cost-effective way to influence worker behavior and improve safety results. They work for any industry—and companies of all sizes—and they are a relatively straightforward and potentially transformative element of any safety program.
The only trick with toolbox talks? They only work if you get them right.
As this detailed guide on improving toolbox talks points out, there’s a lot that goes into preparing and then delivering a good toolbox talk, safety discussion or health and safety meeting.
Fortunately, the guide outlines all the major areas that contribute to the success or failure of the toolbox talk. Whether you’re starting out from scratch or you’ve been doing toolbox talks for years, this document gives you five different ways to get more out of toolbox talks and safety meetings.
Support supervisors in delivering better safety talks
The tips in the toolbox talk guide are intended for everyone, from the experienced safety professional to a newly hired supervisor. If you’re a safety manager at a workplace where supervisors hold daily or weekly safety talks, then consider giving them a copy of the guide.
Because while supervisors should have strong communication skills, many of them may need some help refreshing their approach or thinking of new topics. For other frontline leaders, the guide may help them strengthen areas of weakness.
Give yourself a shot in the arm
Even seasoned pros will find that their toolbox talks can get a bit stale. As a good safety poster program and other initiatives like to remind employees about key safety messages, it’s important to keep things fresh to avoid worker complacency from setting in. Reading the guide may be enough to give you a few ideas on how you can mix up your delivery, approach a topic from a different angle, tell more stories for better engagement, or start discussing issues like human factors.
Diagnose what’s not working
It’s easy to tell when toolbox talks aren’t working—people aren’t participating, barely paying attention, and don’t seem to remember or make use of what was discussed. The ultimate tell that safety talks aren’t working: workers’ safety-related behavior and injury rates don’t change.
It’s much more challenging to figure out what to do about it. This document on toolbox talks provides a great rundown of advice on ameliorating various components of safety meetings, from preparation tips to presentation issues. To diagnose what’s not working in your company’s toolbox talks, read through the guide and for each tip, provide an honest rating of how well you—or the supervisors who are giving the toolbox talks—are executing on a 1–10 scale. It will quickly become apparent where to begin making improvements.
Review best practices
It’s always good to review best practices, especially when it comes to safety meetings. Just as regular maintenance is recommended for vehicles that appear to be running well, it’s wise to look over the guidelines for giving a great safety talk, even if you feel like they’re already going well. You’re likely to find out that you’ve got all your bases covered, which is great. Or you may discover one or two small places where you could make a good talk even better. Either way, this overview of toolbox talk best practices will guide your review and make it easy to confirm that you’re doing everything you can to engage workers with stellar safety talks.
Write your own talks
Every week, thousands of safety talks are delivered in worksites across North America. And many, if not most, of those talks are downloaded from the Internet or purchased off-the-shelf from a vendor. And while some safety training providers can provide effective toolbox talks as part of their sustainment options, the vast majority of readymade options are bound to fall short in one way or another.
Every workplace has its own set of circumstances and challenges. And while some information may be universal (for example, the safety guidelines on working from heights applies to pretty much everyone), it will still be applied to your organization in very specific and often unique ways.
Toolbox talks should be as relevant as possible, and the best way to ensure that your talks reflect the reality of your workplace is to write them yourself. Alternately, you can take existing toolbox talks and customize them as required. Either way, this guide on toolbox talks and safety meetings will walk you through several important considerations in crafting—and delivering—safety discussions that will connect with your workers and help them deal with the safety issues they face.