Every busy season, there comes a time when daily toolbox talks are met with a sea of glazed-over eyeballs. Unfortunately, when your team becomes disengaged with toolbox talks, the popular training tool becomes ineffective.
Choosing unique topics for your talks can reel your audience right back in. Breathe some life into these “micro-trainings” by putting your own spin on one of these ideas.
Unique toolbox talk ideas
Fire extinguishers are a permanent fixture on job sites and in work vehicles.
However, a standard five-pound fire extinguisher can fully discharge in just 15 seconds, and knowing how to use the tool — and when to evacuate — is critical. A quick reminder on correct usage could, quite literally, be a lifesaver. In this toolbox talk, also make sure to mention that fire extinguishers need to be inspected every month.
- Portable Fire Extinguisher Use — Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA)
- Fire Extinguisher Use Poster — SafetyBanners.org
Between gas lines, water lines, power lines, and other infrastructure, there are over 20 million miles of underground utilities in the United States.
Damaging underground utilities is both dangerous and costly. Workers should be aware of the risks associated with accidentally hitting and damaging underground utilities, as well as how it can disrupt tight work schedules.
- Underground Construction Risks — What’s Underground Can Kill — International Risk Management Institute (IRMI)
- Call811 Toolkit — Common Ground Alliance
If workers make the slightest mistake while working in a confined space, they can find themselves in a life and death situation. In 2015 alone, there were 136 workplace fatalities associated with confined spaces in the United States.
Given the riskiness of working in a confined space, a quick refresher on the subject now and again can keep best practices and critical safety precautions on top of mind.
- Silent Killer in a Newly Constructed Manhole — OSHA (PowerPoint)
- Is 911 your Confined Space Rescue Plan? — OSHA Fact Sheet
- Consider these confined space best practices — Industrial Hygiene & Safety News
Equipment maintenance and calibration
Equipment malfunctions are productivity killers, pushing back tight work schedules for minutes, hours, or even days. Using a toolbox talk to teach workers the basic ins and outs of maintaining and calibrating equipment can help you avoid significant schedule setbacks. That way, your crew can independently troubleshoot simple issues without having to call in reinforcements. Knowing proper maintenance practices also helps prevent accidents caused by things like failing brakes and rupturing hoses.
- Construction Equipment Maintenance: How Often and When to Schedule — eSub Inc.
- Maintaining Heavy Construction Equipment — Nationwide Construction
Despite the signs your body will give you when exposed to excessive heat, some workers ignore signs of heat-related illnesses for fear of losing out on hours or setting a project behind. A quick toolbox talk on the subject can reinforce the idea that health is a top priority.
- [Infographic] Heat-Related Illnesses — TriMedia Environmental & Engineering
- Heat-related Illnesses and First Aid — OSHA
- OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool — CDC via Apple App Store
Shift work is common during the busy season, with many workers toiling late into the night to make deadlines. However, your crew should be aware of the health risks associated with shift work including fatigue, sleep disturbances and insomnia, and gastrointestinal symptoms. The ability to recognize these issues will help ensure workers are taking breaks when they need to and not simply surviving on caffeine.
- Plain Language About Shift Work — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Long Work Hours, Extended or Irregular Shifts, and Worker Fatigue — OSHA
Mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas can transmit bacterial and viral diseases. On sites where these pests seem to reign, give a toolbox talk about vector-borne diseases, safe ways to keep insects at bay, and how to safely remove ticks from bare skin.
- National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID) — CDC
- Insect Repellent Safety — CDC
- Tick Removal — CDC
Near misses and safety stories
Stories resonate with people, so a toolbox talk about workplace incidents can be hugely impactful. Get creative with the stories you tell — perhaps you talk about an incident that happened on site recently, or maybe you share a highly-publicised near-miss. Any direction you choose, you’ll find that some stories will hit close to home for your crew.
- Near Misses: Identify and Eliminate Hazardous Workplace Conditions with Proper Training — Construction Business Owner
- Real Life Workplace Safety Stories — TriMedia Environmental & Engineering
The cost of accidents
Much like “near misses and safety stories,” talking about the cost of accidents can put safety into a different perspective for workers. Your crew obviously cares about their personal well-being, but chances are, they also care about the financial health of your business. Talking about the cost of accidents can have a significant impact on the way your workers operate.
Especially crucial for road construction workers, a quick refresher on traffic control can mean the difference between inadvertently causing an accident and keeping traffic moving smoothly. In your talk, review signage basics, hand signals, and radio communication protocol.
- Work Zone Traffic Safety — OSHA Fact Sheet
- Utility Work Zone Traffic Control — WorkSafetyZone.org
- How to Safely Regulate Traffic in Michigan — MDOT Training Video via YouTube
If it’s a busy work season, chances are the streets are full of people. Workers in densely populated areas can always use a reminder about the rules of the road, including pedestrian right-of-way.
- Work Zone Traffic Safety — OSHA Fact Sheet
- Pedestrian Crossing: 50 State Summary — National Conference of State Legislatures
Workplace housekeeping might not be an obvious choice for a toolbox talk, but that doesn’t make it unimportant. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 15% of all accidental deaths in general industry are attributed to slips, trips, and falls. A clean job site is a safe worksite, and workers occasionally need to be reminded of their responsibilities.
- Construction Site Housekeeping Checklist — Hanover Insurance Group
- Benefits of Good Housekeeping Practices — OSHA
Tripping can also lead to injuries like twisted ankles or beat up palms and knees that require first aid. This toolbox topic should cover how to properly eliminate or mark tripping hazards and proper footwear for the job.
- Slips, Trips, and Falls Safety Training in the Construction Industry — SafetySkills
- Safety Footwear at Construction Sites — OSHA
Everyone carries a cell phone, but that doesn’t mean workers should be on them while on a dangerous work site. Present a toolbox talk about your company’s protocols concerning cell phone usage while operating heavy equipment, driving, and any other activities that require full and undivided attention.
- Mobile Phones on Construction Sites: Managing the Hazards — International Law Office
- Safe Cell Phone Usage — Construction Center of Excellence
Lack of training and inexperience makes young workers especially vulnerable to workplace accidents. Since young workers are so accident prone, allowing them to become accustomed to unsafe habits can result in serious incidents. Bring everyone together for a toolbox talk stressing the importance of leading by example, consistently following basic safety protocols, and sharing professional know-how. The subject can help bridge any experience gaps your crew has.
Ergonomics isn’t just for the office. — it carries over into industrial settings as well. If your workers are operating power tools for hours each day, industrial ergonomics is an excellent topic to cover. Repeated awkward motions required for power tool usage can cause long-term injuries.
- Strains, Sprains and Material Handling Safety Tips for Employers and Workers — OSHA’s Alliance Program
- Simple Solutions, Ergonomics for Construction Workers — CDC
When loud is too loud
Prolonged exposure to high noise levels can cause hearing damage. Exploring “when loud is too loud” can help educate your workers about noises that are loud enough to be considered an occupational hazard. You should also cover what personal protective equipment can help reduce the risk of inner ear injury.
- Protecting Yourself from Noise in Construction — OSHA Pocket Guide
- Noise in Construction — EHS Today
Need some more ideas on how to give your safety culture a boost? Check out our article on Simple Safety Solutions.