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Safety Management Insights

How to Make the Most of Your Toolbox Talks

Posted by Don Brown on Sep 2, 2015 8:30:00 AM

make_the_most_toolbox_talksEmployee involvement is critical to improving the safety of your company. Simply instructing workers on new policies and procedures generates little to no buy-in, and it may even make them feel as if safety is out of their hands. People learn best by becoming engaged in the learning process, and gathering employees’ input helps them understand how new rules and regulations will apply to their jobs.

How can you better engage your employees? 

One of the best methods is the toolbox talk, a group discussion where workers and safety managers focus on specific issues together. Toolbox talks are informal and brief, and they can be used weekly and even daily to improve your company’s safety culture. They can also give workers a sense of responsibility for their own safety, which will lead to fewer accidents, illnesses and related costs in the long run.

Chances are, you’re already conducting at least a few toolbox talks already, but there’s always room for improvement. From better employee feedback to measurably improved outcomes, you’ll certainly be able to tell when your talks become more effective. Here are a few tips for making the most of them.

Increase the Frequency

If you’re only holding toolbox talks a few times per month, increase the frequency to two or three times per week. There is more than enough to discuss at most companies, especially when you ask employees for their input and concerns. Repetition is critical to learning, and more frequent talks will foster a more safety-minded culture.

Ask for Topics

At a loss for new topics? Ask your workers! There may be issues you didn’t even know existed, or that you never realized were so important. Potential discussions include:

  • Behavioral Safety
  • Disease Prevention
  • Electrical Hazards
  • Equipment Dangers
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Seasonal Concerns
  • Contractor Safety

Focus on Positives

There will always be concerns to address, but you can create a more positive, encouraging atmosphere by also focusing on what employees are doing right. A good rule of thumb is to highlight three positives for every negative.

Highlight Employees

Similarly, it’s important to point out specific workers who are doing a great job. Most departments have a few members who are particularly dedicated to safety, and honoring their work can encourage others to follow suit.

Ditch the Script

As useful as they are, some companies’ toolbox talks have a reputation for being boring. To improve the quality of your meetings, avoid scripted dialogue and speak from the heart. If you don’t have much to say, you can always use employees’ concerns to start the conversation.

Get Feedback

Last but not least, one of the best ways to make your talks more effective is to ask for feedback from the workers they’re supposed to benefit. To encourage honesty, ask for anonymous feedback. You might just learn that your company’s most pressing safety concerns are being ignored.

Toolbox talks are one of many ways to create a safer workplace. To learn more methods, download our free resource, 9 Ways to Make Your Job As A Safety Manager Easier.

9 Ways to Make Your Job as a Safety Manager Easier