October 19, 2017 | Derek |

From Toolbox Talks to Formal Safety Meetings: 5 Tips for a Better Session

What is a Toolbox Talk?

You might call it a toolbox talk, tailgate meeting or safety briefing but it has one goal: Keep worker safety front of mind.

A toolbox talk is an informal safety meeting that focuses on safety topics related to a specific job. The talk could be regarding a particular hazard like weather conditions or using unfamiliar equipment, or it could focus on best safety practices.

These safety meetings are meant to be short and are conducted on the job site prior to the start of the shift. Toolbox talks can refresh workers’ knowledge, cover safety checks, and exchange information between older and newer employees.



The Importance of Regular Safety Training

Whether you’re having a toolbox talk at the start of your shift or a more formal training once a week, safety training is an important aspect of creating a safer workplace.

But it’s only one part.

If your audience is nodding off during your safety talk, you might as well be talking to a wall.

This blog highlights five tips that can make your session better, regardless of whether it’s an informal toolbox talk first thing in the morning or a sit-down safety meeting.


1. Be Consistent:

If you’ve ever trained for anything — a recital, softball tournament, or ultimate fighter championship — you know that the key to success is consistency.

You don’t practice once and then expect to be the best, you set a regular schedule and you practice to better yourself.

Effective safety training in the workplace is no different.

Whether you’re doing a quick daily toolbox talk or a longer safety training session, you need to choose a regular date and time.

Maybe it’s every morning at 8:15 am or it’s every Monday from 9 am to 9:30 am.

Team members are accountable for being present at the meeting and arriving on time.

The fact that there’s a set time for employees to report on progress and develop their skills will lead to or maintain low rates of workplace injury.

In Eric Holtzclaw’s Power of Consistency: 5 Rules, he says that one of the major benefits of consistency is that it maintains your message. “If you treat a meeting as unimportant,” he writes, “don’t be surprised when you find they are doing the same…”


2. Keep it Fresh:

You probably have that friend you tells you the same story every time you meet about the time he scored the winning touchdown in high school. You might smile politely and drift off til he’s done or you flat out tell him to shut up. Either way, hearing the same thing over and over gets boring.

Keeping your safety meeting fresh means bringing in new topics or incorporating themes into your training.


Safety Meeting Themes:

Safety meetings are typically more formal, sit-down training sessions.

These are excellent opportunities for more in-depth conversations centered around one key theme.

If you’re not sure where to start, read our article called the Top 10 OSHA Citations and How To Prevent Them.

These 10 safety concerns are commonly overlooked and should be high on your list for safety talks.


Toolbox Talk Themes:

Toolbox talks are designed to be quick fifteen-minute meetings at the start of the shift.

These informal safety meetings focus of safety topics related to specific jobs.

It may not seem as easy to keep your toolbox talks fresh since they’re done daily.

But there’s a number of topics you can look at — workplace hazards, best work practices, last minute safety checks, and your goals for that day (both progress related and safety related).

You can even invite guests to talk about specific personal protective equipment or tools.

superior glove onsite for a construction toolbox talk


3. Be Positive:

Scare tactics can only work for so long before your audience quits listening.

Peppering in a ‘worst case scenario’ training where you present the negative impacts of unsafe behavior can be effective, but it’s not the key for long-term compliance.

Instead, stress the positive benefits of compliance, set goals and give regular reminders of those goals.

For instance, 100 days without a workplace accident is rewarded with a lunch barbecue.


4. Choose Your Venue Carefully:

Holding your toolbox talk in the shop or your safety meeting in the lunch room might be convenient but is it the most suitable location?

If the area is too loud, if there’s too many visual distractions or if there’s too much traffic through the area, your audience isn’t going to give their full attention.

Find a meeting room, mobile office trailer or other quiet space to hold your sessions and your employees’ attention.


5. Keep it Short:

To get your message across most effectively, keep it short.

The human attention span for listening to presenters is 18 to 20 minutes.

After that your audience’s minds will start to wander and everything you say will be going in one ear and out the other.

“After twenty minutes, no matter how interested we are, our focus is depleted, and, unless corrective action is taken, will erode steadily until we literally aren’t listening any longer” Alf Rehn wrote in his article The 20-Minute Rule for Great Public Speaking.

That means to have a memorable message that your audience will internalize, it has to be short and concise.


Ready to crank up your safety game?

Watch our on-demand webinar “The Science Behind Safety.”


Derek Coughlin
About Derek Coughlin