Norton Seal Group holding a construction toolbox meeting

Loss Control & Risk Management

What Is a Toolbox Safety Meeting?

Communication is a very important element of any safety program. A toolbox safety meeting is a short, informal, on-the-job safety presentation and is an excellent way to provide an opportunity to exchange information with the work force. It should be designed to educate the workers and to reinforce safety knowledge. Upper management should support and ensure that these meetings are held as scheduled. Any relevant safety concerns brought up at these meetings should be assessed and appropriate action should be taken, where necessary.

Specific Purpose of Toolbox Meetings

The specific purposes for conducting “Toolbox Talks” are to:

  • Raise safety knowledge, awareness and motivation.
  • Gain approval and commitment for safety procedures.
  • Encourage workers to practice and promote safe procedures.
  • Help create positive safety attitudes.
  • Provide recognition of dangers and hazards from incidents, accidents, and injuries.
  • Establish communication with workers on the need for safety programs.
  • Promote a continuous safety program.

Toolbox Meeting Planning

The day and time of toolbox meetings may vary depending on the organization and safety considerations. There may be a need to meet on a more frequent basis if it can help to lessen confusion and ensure better safety performance. Meetings should be held “on the job” at a regularly scheduled time and place. The length of these meetings should be kept short, as much as possible, usually between 15 to 20 minutes. If the meetings tend to drag on, the value of sharing safety information is lost.

Perceptions of Safety Meetings

Safety meetings are often disliked if they are poorly organized. Frequent perceptions about toolbox talks are:

  • We don't have time to waste on a safety meeting.
  • I've heard it all before.
  • This is a nuisance, dry and boring.
  • This is a good time to catch up on some sleep.

Likes and Dislikes

There are many likes and dislikes related to attending a safety meeting. Some positive attributes of a “likeable” toolbox talk are:

  • An enthusiastic presenter with an obvious understandable purpose.
  • A presentation that is informative, not repetitive.
  • Real jobsite examples that relate to this specific project.
  • Audience involvement with questions and specific experiences.
  • Ending the meeting on time with a positive note.

The following are items than lead to an “unlikable” toolbox talk:

  • An arrogant presenter using offensive humor or big words and a monotonous voice.
  • Agendas containing too much detail and information.
  • Abstract ideas that don't relate to the audience.
  • A meeting room to crowded, and a meeting that is too long or poorly planned.
  • Participants are unprepared and the wrong people are at the meeting.
  • Too many safety meetings over a short period of time.
  • The meeting ends without a purpose or a conclusion.

Presentation Techniques for Safety Meetings

The safety topics discussed at these meetings should relate to site-safety concerns. There are many areas where safety information can be obtained for these meetings. Vendors can supply information on the safe use of their products. Insurance companies can supply safety literature. And the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Safety Council have a variety of information that can be used. When presenting a toolbox talk, the following suggestions should be considered to help assure attendees get the most out of the session:

  • The attention span of most people is 20 minutes. Try to avoid meetings that last over 20 minutes.
  • Change activities, exercises, methods, and media routinely during the meeting.
  • Add variety to the presentation by using plenty of examples, statistics and case studies.
  • Maintain a brisk pace and schedule.
  • Use of visuals such as examples of equipment, overheads or demonstrations to provide impact.
  • Equipment used should be demonstrated properly and completely.
  • Devote most of the meeting to application and feedback, and as little as possible to presentation. Attendees should relate with personal stories.
  • Suggest note taking to aid in concentration, and divide into groups if attendance is large. Memory is best at the beginning and end of the session.
  • Avoid holding meetings during 'low' points of the day (lunch, immediately following lunch, and the end of the day).

Visual Aids for Safety Meetings

The use of visual aids will help group concentration and retention of material. The following is a list of suggested visual formats that can be used during a toolbox talk:

  • Actual demonstrations.
  • Slide presentations.Overhead projection.
  • Videotapes, films, flip charts and chalkboards.
  • Posters and related handouts.

Documentation for a Toolbox Talk

There are strict laws and regulations on safety and health training. It is important that proper documentation is completed after any training is administered. A description of the meeting and training should be recorded, and an attendance sheet should be signed by all present. Documentation helps show that an organization is complying with applicable government safety and health regulations. These records should be kept in a safe place and readily available for review.

For more information on loss control and managing business risks, check out the American Family Insurance Loss Control Resource Center.

COPYRIGHT ©2000, ISO Services, Inc.

The information contained in this publication was obtained from sources believed to be reliable. ISO Services, Inc., its companies and employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with either the information herein contained or the safety suggestions herein made. Moreover, it cannot be assumed that every acceptable safety procedure is contained herein or that abnormal or unusual circumstances may not warrant or require further or additional procedure.

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Related Topics: Employee Safety , Protecting Your Business , Safety Programs