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5 Timely Ideas for September Toolbox Talks

Confident lady business trainer coach give flip chart toolbox presentation

In September, companies often shift their mindset to conducting or renewing safety training to align with kids being back in school. Part of that training can be a resurgence of toolbox talks now that summer is over. If you’re still in the haze of summer vacation, here are five ideas for toolbox talks timed just for September.

National Preparedness Month

September is National Preparedness Month, which promotes community and family disaster planning. One of the most effective ways to engage employees in safety is to show them that you care about them even when they’re not within the four walls of the work facility. Take this concept one step further and show them that you care about their families too since that is their most important priority.

If the recent pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that we could all benefit from being prepared for anything. We published a blog post last year—The Easy Way to Have a Home Emergency Plan—and it’s an excellent resource for this topic. It will not only help with making an emergency plan but it will also guide you through building an emergency kit and prepare your employees for disasters—and it will give you some ideas on how to run a toolbox talk on emergency preparation.

National Food Safety Education Month

September also marks National Food Safety Education Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 6 Americans gets sick from eating contaminated food every year. The CDC goes on to note that 128,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 people die from foodborne illness, annually. If you’re wondering how this applies to the workplace, just ask anyone who’s suffered from food poisoning in the past. People become so sick that they can’t function for two or three days, causing them to miss work. The good news is that most cases of foodborne illness are preventable.

In order to avoid foodborne illness involving contaminated food in the workplace, share these easy prevention measures in your next toolbox talk.

  1. Food preparation – as with everything, start by washing hands, then continue to clean work surfaces and cutting boards (ensure the dishcloth is fresh). All food needs to be cooked thoroughly, and use a food thermometer where necessary. Once prepared, store food in the refrigerator immediately. Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from cooked food and fresh produce to avoid cross-contamination. 
  2. Proper hand hygiene – we’ve all recently been reminded about how important it is to wash your hands frequently and properly. In case anyone forgot, the proper way to wash hands is to wet them and scrub with soap—including the backs of the hands, in between the fingers, under the fingernails—for at least 20 seconds. Since food poisoning comes from contaminants like bacteria, proper handwashing before sitting down to eat is vitally important.  
  3. Store food properly – one of the easiest ways to become subjected to food poisoning is when food isn’t stored correctly. Food should be stored in a refrigerator set at or below 40°F (4°C). If you’re working outside and don’t have access to a fridge, ice packs are a great way to keep food cool. Make sure to remove the lunch pail from direct sunlight. Food items should not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours.
  4. Clean your desk or eating surface – you don’t often think about how much bacteria lives on your desk and the stuff on/near your desk like your keyboard, phone, chair arms. Be sure to disinfect and wipe down surfaces before putting food on them.
National Concussion Awareness Day

The problem with concussions is that symptoms don’t always show up immediately following the injury. When you cut yourself, you can assess how bad it is just by looking at it. With a concussion, it could be days or weeks after the injury before symptoms become apparent. And even when symptoms are present, people may not take their symptoms as seriously as they should. According to the Brain Injury Association of America, 9 out of 10 American adults can’t correctly define a concussion. This could be due to the fact that the symptoms are common and relatable to other things.

Take a look at the common symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Drowsiness
  • Fog-like state/inability to pay attention
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness

National Concussion Awareness Day is recognized on the third Friday of September every year.  It’s important to educate workers on the symptoms of concussions and head injuries since up to 50% of concussions go undiagnosed. It’s not uncommon for people to suffer from a concussion and carry on with their regular activities like going to work. But it’s worth reminding workers that another bump on the head could result in second impact syndrome, which could be fatal or lead to permanent brain damage.

National Recovery Month and Suicide Prevention Day 

September is National Recovery Month, focusing on substance use treatment and mental health services. It is vital to educate workers about recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs, especially given potential lifestyle changes that COVID introduced. More time spent at home has increased fear and anxiety in people around a number of things like their health and the health of their family members, the economy, working from home, the future of their jobs, and sending their kids back to school. Being at home has also made people feel isolated and stressed, and they may have turned their occasional substance use habits into daily comfort.

This topic could be combined with World Suicide Prevention Day, which is observed on September 10 each year. Mental health is an essential topic for discussion in the workplace. It’s always one that’s seemed taboo, but given the increasing number of suicides, education around the subject could get someone the help they need before it’s too late. According to the CDC, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.  One of the staggering facts surrounding suicide is that for every one suicide we know about, 25 other people made an attempt

This may seem like a difficult topic for a toolbox talk, but having a supportive discussion about addiction, suicide and mental health could go a long way in preventing workers from hurting themselves. Develop an inclusive work environment if one hasn’t already been established. Talking about mental health and substance abuse within the company will create a culture where it’s acceptable to talk about getting help for recovery, depression and suicide. Most people will only disclose their issues if they feel they’re around people they can trust. Prevention strategies also include wellness programs, Employee and Family Assistance Program (EAP) and counseling services, and awareness training. Reduce the stigma by starting with a toolbox talk letting employees know what’s available within the company and reminding them of where they can turn for help.

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