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6 Toolbox Topic Ideas Perfect for October

Supervisor leading an informal toolbox talk

When you think of October, the fall weather, the changing colors of the leaves, and Halloween come to mind. But on the topic of safety, October holds a number of recognized national safety calendar events and they are a perfect basis for toolbox talk topics. Here are six great topics specifically for October.

National Protect Your Hearing Month

October is National Protect Your Hearing Month. Noise-induced hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss—grouped under the heading sensorineural hearing loss (inner ear nerves and hair cells are damaged)—and it affects 1 in 4 people. Noise-induced hearing loss happens when you’re exposed to a noise that is too loud and that lasts too long. Exposure to sounds 85 decibels (dB) and above can damage your hearing( and that’s the level that OSHA regulations begin). The graphic below illustrates how common noises can impact your hearing.

Noise Level By Decibels

This type of hearing loss is permanent so it’s important for workers to protect their hearing whenever possible on a job site. A great toolbox topic on this subject should cover how to prevent noise-induced hearing loss, a discussion about loud areas or equipment your employees’ encounter, as well as best practices for different types of hearing protection. We wrote a blog post on this topic that goes beyond just handing out earplugs—check it out here: Don’t Play It by Ear When Caring for Hearing Protection. Another good source for information to use for a toolbox talk is 5 Unexpected Ways to Reduce Noise in the Workplace

National Crime Prevention Month

The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) designated October as Crime Prevention Month in 1984. Fun fact: everyone’s favorite dog, McGruff the Crime Dog®, celebrated his 40th birthday on July 1, 2020. But crime prevention is serious work, making it a great community initiative that businesses can take as part of their safety 24/7 commitment to their employees. Topics can include bullying and cyberbullying, alcohol and drug abuse, neighborhood safety, and firearms safety, to name a few that are outlined on the NCPC website. A timely topic for neighborhood safety in October is Halloween. From trick-or-treating tips to candy inspection, there are a lot of ways to ensure kids stay safe this frightful evening. 

An under-discussed crime prevention topic is crime within the workplace. You can conduct a crime threat assessment, similar to a job hazard analysis, to identify issues like general sources of threats that would be attracted to your workplace, the types of crimes that would be committed and the level of threat that each risk poses. You could also outline prevention measures. Communicating these topics to employees in a safety meeting or toolbox talk will help them to be prepared for any type of emergency that they might face while at work.

National Fire Prevention Week 

National Fire Prevention Week takes place from October 4–10. The theme for this year is “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!” This is a great topic to segway into 24/7 safety when it comes to fire prevention.  According to the NFPA, cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and unattended cooking is the leading cause of fires in the kitchen. Often when panicked, people will grab the closest fire extinguisher to put out a fire. But using the wrong fire extinguisher could make the fire worse. Plus, untrained or panicked individuals typically discharge the fire extinguisher too close to the fire, causing the fire to spread. This is a great toolbox topic to keep employees informed—not so they can fight fires, but to have the right information to ensure they don’t make fires worse or get hurt. And knowing when to call 911 should be a part of your safety talk.

Another great toolbox talk for fire prevention week could be debunking common misconceptions around fire safety. The only thing worse than an untrained person is one who assumes they know the answers without having any solid information to back it up. These six common misconceptions have led to trouble for people in the past, so consider talking about them to ensure they don’t affect your employees in the future.

Home Fire Drill Day 

Home Fire Drill Day is the last day of Fire Prevention Week. The online article How to Apply Workplace Fire Safety Procedures at Home covers everything people need to know about running a fire drill at home. It answers things like “What do you do if an alarm sounds at home?”, “Where are the two closest exits?” and “Where are the fire extinguishers located?”. It also provides the necessary information required for a home fire safety plan so that you can effectively deliver this information in a toolbox talk. 

Another post, The Easy Way to Have a Home Emergency Plan, goes into more detail on home escape plans, doing drills, establishing roles and responsibilities, and has a great overview of what a home emergency kit should look like. You could conduct a demonstration during your toolbox talk to show workers what a home emergency kit looks like and what the items are used for. Or engage them by asking about their home emergency plans—have they established a meeting point? Do their children know two different escape routes? These posts cover everything you need to know on the topic to deliver a good toolbox talk on Home Fire Drill Day.

National School Bus Safety Week 

National School Bus Safety Week is October 19–23, 2020. As mentioned in our 4 Great Topics for Toolbox Talks in August post, education around school-transportation-related crashes is an essential part of back-to-school safety—and not just for students going back to school. According to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), nearly two-thirds of school bus occupant and pedestrian fatalities happened outside of the school bus.

This years’ theme is “Red Lights Mean STOP!”. The most dangerous area around a school bus is within a 10-foot radius on all sides because it’s difficult for drivers to see the children in this area once they’re off the bus. There are big fines if you pass a stopped school bus while its red lights are flashing—and for good reason. There is an alarming number of stop-arm violations each year, and some have even resulted in the death of the children crossing to/from the bus. Storytelling is often an impactful way to make your point for safety training, especially when the safety of kids is involved. We’ve put together a less than 15-minute webinar that you could show employees on how to handle distractions at work, at home and on the road.

National Teen Driver Safety Week 

National Teen Driver Safety Week is October 18–24, 2020. This is another toolbox talk topic covering safety at home and on the road. Safety meetings are a great way to encourage your employees to talk to their teenagers about driving safely. One of the most valuable things parents can do for their children is to help them recognize some of the biggest driving risks. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for teens (15-18 years old) in the United States. Check out our driving awareness toolkit, which has a ton of free resources that can be used for your toolbox talk and shared with your employees.

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