Toolbox Talks: How to maximize engagement and safety awareness

Toolbox Talks

Toolbox talks are casual briefings held with staff or crew to discuss important health and safety topics. But, they can also be used to banish boredom and bring out the best in your safety trainings.

Here’s how to use your toolbox talk to turn passive listeners into active participants.

Toolbox talk research suggests these simple and informal briefings can dramatically reduce workplace incidents, particularly when structured with discursive content and a narrative.

Why Use ToolBox Talks?

Health and safety culture in a workplace may be essential, but the biggest hurdle is engaging employees.

This is why tools like a toolbox talk can elevate your health and safety compliance. But more than just compliance, it can help to craft an atmosphere geared towards health and safety.

By using toolbox talks, the safety culture in your workplace can become ingrained in the everyday, instead of being seen as the boring lecture and duties employees feel they have to suffer through.

What is Toolbox Talk?

Typically an informal discussion rather than a training, this method is sometimes referred to as a safety meeting or a safety briefing.

A toolbox talk can be a great refresher and can be ideal for any last-minute safety checks. The meetings are short and sweet, covering prevalent topics for the day’s or week’s particular tasks.

For example, if you are conducting a safety briefing prior to a new construction site, then that day’s morning toolbox talk could focus on the particular work at hand for the day.

What Topics to Cover in a Toolbox Talk?

The main objective is to solidify safety basics in the workplace.

This is your starting point, but you don’t have to cover every fundamental in a single toolbox talk. These talks should be designed to cover one specific health and safety area.

This could be high-risk scenarios, changes in the workplace or job site, and even the safety basics that seem banal and are easily forgettable (for example, ensuring shoelaces are tied).

Here are some other topics your toolbox talk could cover:

  • Changes to the job brief.
  • Changes to working conditions.
  • Weather and how it affects safety. This is often an important safety point in areas where extreme weather occurs. Snow, ice, sleet, strong winds, and even rain can create a potentially hazardous working environment. 
  • Injuries that have occurred. Be sure to cover how they could have been prevented and if there are any changes to prevent future similar injuries. 
  • Other health and safety fundamentals.

When planning your toolbox talk, remember to keep it relevant. If you are conducting a toolbox talk for employees working on an electrical site, focus on safety that is relevant to working with electrics- don’t dabble with irrelevant subject matter.

Top Tips for an Effective Toolbox Talk

Toolbox top tips

Keep it Short and Sweet

The talks should be like condensed safety nuggets, aim for the talks to be within the 5 – 10 minute bracket. Anything longer and you risk losing any attention you might have had.

Keep it Relevant and Focused

One of the best parts of the toolbox talk is that it is straightforward. Focus on one key health and safety message per toolbox talk.

Choose the focus point that is most relevant for the daily or project tasks. Include any changes for the project or working conditions, and let the tasks at hand guide the subject matter.

Observe the site and notice if there are any unsafe actions or conditions. These can be incorporated into a toolbox talk for the following day- this guarantees engagement and active listening, as the talk is directly related to the employees.

Keep it Interactive and Engaging

What’s the most efficient way of maintaining attention?

Get your listeners involved. Structure the talks so that it interacts with their minds by asking specific and relatable questions. For videos, these questions can be rhetorical- as long as the question sparks mental engagement.

Stimulate engagement through questions at the end, as well as employees checking their PPE, tools, and equipment.

By encouraging employees to check their equipment, it not only makes them an active participant, but it stimulates their sense of responsibility for safety that can become habitual and commonplace.

Tool Box Talks: The Don’ts

No Drone Zone

In a toolbox talk, droning on about a topic will be disastrous. Keep it simple and straight to the point.

Don’t go in Blind

The point of a toolbox talk is to give a concise rundown of the relevant health and safety issues. Prepare the toolbox talk and keep it structured and clear.

Using a platform or software like VITS can help you do just that. Having the online toolbox talk through VITS can ensure your talks are formatted for the best outcome. Book a demo to see exactly how VITS can help your company do this.

What is Needed for a toolbox talk?

You’ll need to be well versed in the employee’s tasks and requirements.

A good grip on workplace safety measures and the potential hazards is essential. But perhaps most importantly, is that you will need to be organized.

The purpose of a toolbox talk is that it is structured and formatted to deliver concise points. This is why delivering a virtual toolbox talk through a platform such as VITS can be beneficial.

Video toolbox talks can help provide structure and keep the talk straightforward and concise. Organization is key. Why not let VITS help with that?

headshot of Dan Wheatley, Straight Talk Consulting founder

By Jaanika Jelistratov, Founder