What is a toolbox talk? A toolbox talk is a casual team safety meeting that can be held at anytime, anywhere, with any team or crew to discuss a specific safety hazard and safe work practices.
Who leads the toolbox talk? Toolbox talks are typically led by the crew foreman or supervisor, but anyone from the crew lead, to the company owner can lead a toolbox talk. Sometimes it’s the company’s safety specialist, or HR manager or even a safety consultant that leads these informal meetings.
While the term ‘toolbox talk’ usually refers to the more casual safety meeting, these brief safety meetings go by many different names depending on your company’s culture, your industry, or where you are in the country. A toolbox talk can also be called by any of these names…
- Tailgate Safety Meeting
- Safety Time-outs
- Safety Meeting
- Crew Safety Briefings
- Safety Moment
- Safety Minute
- Weekly Safety Meeting
- Monthly Safety Topic
- Safety Share
What companies should have toolbox talks? Although the idea behind toolbox talks started with construction trades they are not only for the construction industry. Any company that values the health, well-being and safety of their workers should be having toolbox talks but maybe you call them safety moments or safety meetings.
What should be covered in a toolbox talk? Anything related to health and safety that is important to your company and will help your employees recognize potential hazards in the workplace.
- A crew might have toolbox talks on caught-in hazards, fire safety, cold weather safety or how to use power tools correctly.
- A distribution center might have safety briefings on slips, trips and falls, proper lifting techniques and how to recognize symptoms of fatigue.
- Landscaping companies may have safety moments covering topics like snake avoidance, how to recognize heat-related illnesses, and proper personal protective equipment or PPE.
- Even a company that has workers that work in offices can have safety minutes on topics such as office safety, defensive driving, flu prevention and stress in the workplace.
Where can safety toolbox talk topics be found? Incorporating toolbox talks into your safety program does not need to be time consuming or expensive. A toolbox talk can be extremely informal with the crew supervisor leading a 5-minute refresher training on proper tool use with reminders to always leave the guards in place. A written handout isn’t needed and the supervisor can use his knowledge to lead the discussion and encourage feedback from the crew members. For guided toolbox talks, you can find many sources online ranging from free safety sheets to expensive safety programs that have toolbox talks included.
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How often should toolbox talks occur? It depends on your company, your crew and your industry. As a rule, you can’t have too many toolbox talks, safety information or too much compliance training. Some crews have toolbox talks at the beginning of every shift. A focus on safety is a great way to start the day! Best practice for most companies is to have a weekly safety training meeting, at minimum. For companies that have fewer on-the-job hazards a monthly meeting may be adequate.
How long does a toolbox talk last? A toolbox talk should last as long as is necessary to ensure the team understands the material provided for that safety meeting. Toolbox talks are meant to be an addition to your safety program and they do not in place of longer compliance training that is required. Typically, aim for toolbox talks to last anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, and adjust as necessary for that day’s topic.
Should attendance for toolbox talks be recorded? YES. It doesn’t have to be complicated though. Pass around a sign-in sheet or have one person write down everyone’s name. Make sure the topic, date and location is recorded on the sign-in sheet. File a hard copy at the office or scan it in to save electronically. If your company has a more sophisticated training platform, make sure toolbox talk attendance is captured in your training system.
Why should we have toolbox talks if we already have safety training? Safety compliance training, like defensive driving, fall protection, or hazardous materials handling is vital, important and required. But at best, that compliance training will be provided to employees only once year or less often. Toolbox talks provide an easy way to keep safety on every team member’s mind, every day, every week. The goal of toolbox talks is to provide safety reminders, brief refreshers and quick lessons on safety topics that might not get covered in the longer safety training courses. The informal setting gives supervisors a chance to answer questions, point out specific examples on the job site, and provide hands-on demonstrations, if needed.
Adding toolbox talks to any safety program is guaranteed to improve workplace safety, boost team morale, lower insurance premiums, strengthen safety compliance and lower the risk of safety violations.