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5 Tips for an Effective Toolbox Talk

A toolbox full of tools

Toolbox talks are a great safety training tool that, if delivered properly, can be an ideal way to provide timely safety reminders to employees, improve safety awareness and contribute to an improved safety culture.

From staying relevant to storytelling, here are 5 tips to ensure your regular meetings are effective:

1. Talk directly to your audience. Ensure the topic is relevant to your industry and job site. You can also focus on the employees’ personal agenda—staying safe so they can attend their kid’s soccer game after work, participate in off-the-job hobbies and continue providing for their families. Make sure the talk matters to employees both on and off the job. If workers don’t feel the topic applies directly to them you will have a hard time keeping their interest.

2. Keep it brief. People have limited attention spans and they’ll eventually start tuning you out no matter how important the topic of your safety meeting is. Make only the necessary points. If you have additional information, put in a handout. Or use it at a follow-up toolbox talk later on—periodically addressing the same topic while adding new and relevant contect can help retention while keeping the subject interesting. 

3. Stay positive! Incident investigations are a reactive approach to something negative happening in the workplace—and safety talks can be the exact opposite. They’re an opportunity to proactively encourage safe behavior and improve workplace safety before an incident takes place. Keep the focus on what can be done to create a safe work environment instead of focusing on what has gone wrong in the past.

4. Demonstrate your point. Nobody wants to feel like they’re at a lecture so try to make your talk interactive—when the audience is involved they are more likely to pay attention. Demonstrations, discussions and hands-on examples are all effective ways to get people to participate—and it will help them retain more of the information too. This approach can also contribute to employees viewing their regular safety talks as something positive instead of something to endure. 

5. Tell a story, not a statistic. People believe stats but they remember stories. Statistics are a great way to get a point across but the best way to convey a point is to tell a story. Storytelling is a powerful method of conveying information and helping listeners identify with it and keep it top of mind—which is the goal of a toolbox talk. But don’t forget that stories should follow the other guidelines above, so keep them brief, relevant and make sure they clearly demonstrate your point.

Complacency is a huge factor in workplace incidents. Toolbox talks are a great way to combat complacency by discussing hazards and work practices that pose a risk of injury. Follow these 5 guidelines to make your talks engaging, contribute to an improved safety culture and keep important safety topics fresh in employees’ minds.

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