Toolbox talks keep safety on the agenda

Wednesday December 8, 2021

Safety training is an ongoing process. Laws can change and new hazards can emerge, so regular updates are vital.  An intensive course every couple of years has its place, but you must also find ways to incorporate discussions of health and safety into the everyday culture of your workplace. This is where toolbox talks can help.

What is a toolbox talk?

A toolbox talk is a quick refresher session on a particular aspect of health and safety. It usually takes place at the start of a shift and lasts between 10 and 30 minutes. The concept first appeared in the construction industry (hence the name), but it can be applied to any workplace. Toolbox talks typically have a more relaxed atmosphere than formal safety training, and allow plenty of room for discussion and employee questions.

The idea of a toolbox talk is to focus on a single topic. Examples include:

  • Fire safety
  • Accident reporting
  • COSHH guidelines
  • Electrical safety
  • First aid
  • PPE
  • Working at height
  • Managing stress

What are the advantages of toolbox talks?

Toolbox talks are a simple measure that can make a big difference to health and safety. Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • Studies have shown that human error is a factor in up to 90% of workplace accidents. Regular reminders of best practice will reduce the likelihood of these mistakes.
  • Safety legislation can change quickly, and waiting for the next official training session can leave employees with dangerous gaps in their knowledge. A toolbox talk allows you to inform your staff of important changes as soon as they occur.
  • Toolbox talks allow you to adapt safety training to the circumstances of your business. If a particular safety issue keeps cropping up, you can address it straight away.
  • Toolbox talks ensure that employees start the day in the right frame of mind. As well as reminding them of specific health and safety practices, you can also emphasise the importance of health and safety in general as they begin their shifts.
  • Health and safety courses tend to prioritise the most dangerous workplace hazards. A toolbox talk allows you to draw attention to less serious risks that might otherwise have been ignored.
  • Toolbox talks give staff the opportunity to raise any safety concerns to management. Sometimes the real value will be in the discussions you end up having, rather than the issue you had planned to cover.
  • Toolbox talks can improve morale by showing your staff that you take their well-being seriously.

Who should conduct a toolbox talk?

A toolbox talk can be conducted by anyone with the necessary experience. Generally this will be a manager, but other members of staff can also pitch in. If an employee is particularly knowledgeable about a certain subject, allowing them to lead a toolbox talk is a great idea. It demonstrates that you value their expertise, and shows co-workers that improving health and safety is a team effort.

You may also prefer to bring in an external speaker to give your staff a fresh perspective on a certain issue. This is where we can help. We can create a bespoke toolbox talk on a topic of your choice, and deliver it in a punchy and memorable way. Or we can produce a series. Contact your local H&S Dept for more information.

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