Most people have heard the term Toolbox Talk. Many of you probably use them in one form or another in your organisation. They have become a safety staple across many industries. But how effective are they really?
A toolbox talk is an informal safety lesson, or reminder, delivered by the supervisor to their workgroup at the beginning of a shift – while everyone is gathered around their ‘toolboxes’ getting ready for work. Or as Anthony Izzo says in his blog 9 Things Your Supervisors Should Know about Tool Box Talks: “We called them tool box talks because there was always a tool box nearby and someone was always leaning on it”.
The aim of a toolbox talk is to help people recognise and address safety hazards. It is a simple communication tool that, if done correctly, can have a major impact on safety and moral.
An effective toolbox talk:
- is interesting and relevant to the workgroup, so either based on a current issue or a recent incident
- is short, 5 – 10 minutes max
- is simple to deliver and easy to understand
- engages the workgroup, by including questions or a ‘Safety Share’ (see previous blog)
- builds rapport between the supervisor and the workgroup and helps to foster a sense of teamwork.
The basic toolbox talk structure is simple.
- Introduction – What are we talking about and why now?
- How does it affect us – what are the hazards/risks that we face?
- What are we doing about it – what controls are currently in place?
- How can we do it better/make it safer?
A toolbox talk can be:
- created from safety articles in industry newsletters
- taken straight from the Internet
- developed externally or in house based on a recent incident, or part of a larger safety strategy
- made up on the spot by the supervisor (this one is perhaps not the best idea).
Each of these methods can be successful depending on a number of factors, such as the:
- knowledge and skill of the person developing the content
- influence of, and respect for, the person delivering the talk
- interest and engagement of the workgroup.
Some organisations have a library of toolbox talk topics prepared. These can be selected, information printed or downloaded, and delivered as required. Interactive online toolbox talks are popular. Played on a computer or TV screen these also serve as a simple training tool for ‘wet weather’ or ‘light duty’ days.