6 Toolbox Talk Tips for OSHA Safety & Compliance

  1. Choose a Relevant Safety Topic

Why Toolbox Talks?

Toolbox talks help promote a culture of safety on the construction site. Not only do these briefings serve as reminders of safety protocols and bring awareness to hazards, but they also play a role in ensuring that your team stays OSHA compliant. Since OSHA requires that companies provide a workplace free from “serious recognized hazards,” toolbox talks are a best practice that will bolster compliance and reduce your Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR).

According to a report by the Associated Builders and Contractors, “Companies that conduct daily toolbox talks reduce TRIR by 85% compared to companies that hold them monthly.”In addition to holding toolbox talks frequently, it’s important to make them as effective as possible to boost results. Here are 6 tips for effective toolbox talks that supervisors and site managers can implement immediately:

#1: Choose a Relevant Safety Topic

When choosing a topic for your next toolbox talk, make sure it will be relevant, helpful and impactful for your team. Avoid the groans and eye-rolls that come after you introduce a worn-out or irrelevant topic. Luckily, there are several strategies and resources you can use to make sure your toolbox talk hits home for your team:
  • Discuss Recent Workplace Incidents.
    Respond to a recent on-site injury or safety issue. This will increase engagement during your talk due to its direct impact on your team.
  • Discuss the effects of seasonal changes.
    Bring up potential risks that come with the current season, whether it be heatstroke, slippery ice or pesky insects.
  • Ask your workers for ideas.
    Asking your crew for input to ensure that you’re addressing the most impactful and relevant topics for your team.
  • Use online resources.
    There are plenty of online resources and services available to help streamline your toolbox talk process. Harvard University’s Environmental Health & Safety department has a truckload of ready-made toolbox talk one-pagers.
  • Follow the data
    Use your data on your team’s compliance or incident rates to inform the subject of your safety briefing. FastField offers a dashboard for construction teams who use their digital workflow software to quickly see trends and areas in need of improvement – a quick way to prep a toolbox talk.

#2: Plan, Prepare & Practice

While toolbox talks are informal and conversational, in order to build trust and keep the attention of your attendees, it’s important to plan out what you’ll talk about, prepare for potential questions and practice your delivery. This will make you appear more knowledgeable, confident and engaging during the talk. Follow these tips to be more prepared:
  • Define your goal.
    Choose an actionable goal that you want to achieve with this toolbox talk.
  • Create an outline.
    While reading a paper word for word will put your team to sleep, it’s still a good idea to have an outline of points you want to address during your safety talk. Construction sites can be distracting and a reference sheet will help you get back on track. Review these notes at least a few times before your talk to familiarize yourself with the info.
  • Practice your toolbox talk.
    Even though these briefings are short and informal, a couple of run-throughs in the truck will result in a smoother, more confident toolbox talk.
  • Send an announcement.
    If possible, especially for bigger issues that need to be addressed, let your team know in advance what the next toolbox talk will cover. This gives your attendees time to reflect on the topic and show up more prepared with questions or concerns.
  • Choose a quiet, safe location.
    Make sure you don’t deliver your toolbox talk in a noisy, hazardous area on site. Plan in advance the most effective and safe location to get your safety message across.

#3: Use Technology

Although toolbox talks are usually delivered in a conversational, face-to-face manner, that doesn’t mean you can’t mix it up every now and then. Using technology to enhance your talk can save you time, make more of an impact and keep your crew engaged. Here are some methods you can try:
  • Use pre-made videos.
    There are several online resources that offer quick, high-quality videos for toolbox talks designed for OSHA compliance. Channel 1 is a provider of workplace health and safety training that has toolbox talk videos for over 40 different topics.
  • Use images.
    Showing images or videos of real hazardous situations can make more of an impact than mere words. It can also be helpful for non-native English speakers on your team to avoid any miscommunication.
  • Use digital forms.
    Since paper handouts can easily get lost or damaged, provide digital guidelines for your team to reference during the toolbox talk. FastField provides easy-to-build forms for the construction site. Create checklists and show data for your team to reference on their mobile devices during your meeting.

#4 Engage Your Team

Since the advent of YouTube “fail” videos, it’s become more difficult to keep an audience’s attention. Because you’ve chosen an important issue that directly impacts the safety of your team, you’ll want to drive the message home without anyone dozing off. Here are a few ways to keep you crew engaged:
  • Speak with enthusiasm.
    You’ve chosen your topic for a reason. Demonstrate the importance of this issue through your tone of voice and body language. Enthusiasm is contagious, but so is indifference.
  • Involve your team.
    Toolbox talks don’t have to be lectures. Ask open-ended questions to your team and encourage vibrant discussions to guarantee interest and engagement.
  • Keep it positive.
    Although toolbox talks revolve around potential on-site hazards and risks, framing your message positively will motivate your crew. Keep conversations focused on solutions and best practices to maintain a safe environment. You can even use this time to shout out workers who have demonstrated good safety practices.
  • Tell a story.
    Demonstrate your points through real work-related stories. This will make your message more memorable and impactful. You can even invite your team members to share their experiences in risky situations during a build.
  • Use data.
    To strengthen your points, use real metrics from your organization. Relay your team’s incident report or injury claims data. FastField provides a dashboard that automatically analyzes your team’s data for trends and insights.

#5 Keep it Short & Focused

Toolbox talks can last anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. While there is no set rule, a best practice is to keep your talk only as long as it needs to be. Here are a couple of points to keep in mind during your talk to help your team retain the information and not lose focus:
  • Stay on topic.
    Toolbox talks serve to remind or bring awareness to a single safety issue. Make sure your message stays focused on that issue and drives home your main points without overloading your team with statistics and irrelevant information.
  • Use simple language.
    Don’t make your safety talk more complex than it needs to be. Avoid too much specialized vocabulary and abstract ideas. After all, studies show that people only retain about 20% of what they hear.

#6: Collect Data

Staying OSHA compliant involves keeping records and acting on data. To stay organized, address issues and improve your toolbox talks, it’s important to gather and log certain types of data:
  • Keep a meeting log.
    If you’re holding daily or weekly toolbox talks, you may find yourself forgetting which topics you’ve covered and which ones you still need in order to ensure OSHA compliance. Keeping a log of each talk will help you stay organized. Be sure to record the topic, speaker and any notes for reference.
  • Get feedback.
    Ask your team what’s going well and what can be improved with your toolbox talks. Create simple feedback forms for attendees to submit ratings and suggestions.
  • Track attendance & compliance: Keep attendance records of safety meetings for compliance purposes.
FastField’s digital form builder lets you create simple mobile forms for all of the tasks mentioned above. Create a digital meeting log that saves all your records in one place for easy access. Dispatch feedback forms for your team to quickly fill out on their mobile devices. Track attendance digitally using e-signatures, geolocation stamps and time stamps.

Enhance Your Next Toolbox Talk

Effective toolbox talks are short, focused, relevant and engaging. Although brief and informal, toolbox talks are an essential part of ensuring a safe, secure and OSHA compliant workplace.

When you’re in the field, it can be challenging to access data, communicate information and ensure compliance in a quick and easy manner – especially if you have piles of papers to keep track of.

To help, FastField offers a digital forms workflow solution for teams in the field. We provide easy-to-build mobile forms with real-time data analysis to strengthen your next toolbox talk. In addition, our automated workflow lets you set up alerts, multi-step form approvals, triggered actions and data delivery – all in one place.
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