Safety meetings, or toolbox talks, are universal on construction sites and similar workplaces. This is for very good reason—in an inherently risky industry, workplace safety should always be a top priority. And on a site with myriad (literally) moving parts, elevated work areas, heavy equipment and machinery, electrical hazards, and more, there are so many different aspects to consider and communicate.
From weather-specific concerns to staying up-to-date with OSHA regulations, the field of safety in the construction workplace is vast and varied. You want to make sure that you cover a wide array of topics on your safety meeting schedule, focusing on those most relevant to the time, place, and individual properties of the site and project. It’s also important to take steps to deliver information, expectations, and safety tips in a way that’s engaging and effective—otherwise, you’re wasting your time. Safety Evolution is designed to cut down on paperwork and give more time for the hands-on aspect of workplace safety. Communicating with workers is one of the most important "Hands On" aspects of safety! The following is our guide to planning topics for—and executing—top-notch toolbox talks on your worksite.
Popular and Widely Relevant Safety Topics for Toolbox Talks
The first step in a great safety program is deciding what you’ll discuss with workers at the designated safety meeting time. We’ve written a helpful post on eight construction safety meeting topics that is a great start, outlining popular and important topics to cover. These include:
PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
PPE is the gear that workers wear to keep themselves protected—hard hats, hand protection, eye protection, and beyond. Educating them on why, when, and how it is used to the best effect is crucial.
Hazard Communication and Identification
Identifying hazards and communicating them to the workforce is perhaps the most important aspect of ensuring all workers are safe. Often managed by a site safety committee, a robust hazard identification program is key and should be made transparent in safety meetings.
Lockout and Tag Out Procedures
These are designed to ensure the safe operation of machinery and equipment, isolating energy sources before anything is repaired or worked on. Going over the procedures to familiarize all workers with them should be a priority for your toolbox talk times.
Include discussions about safety training requirements and opportunities in your meetings. Not only does education guide and improve safety behaviours and attitudes, but investing in safety training for your employees shows them how much they are valued—and offers a chance for them to upskill.
First aid goes a long way towards safety in any scenario! On a construction site, there should always be people around trained and certified in first aid—and everyone can learn a few basic principles and practices during a safety meeting.
Slips, trips, and falls are major health and safety concerns across the board, and workers in the construction industry are most at-risk for fatal falls. Fall protection (including ladder safety) is an important topic of discussion in safety meetings.
The equipment used on a construction site—not to mention the electrical wires floating around—make fire a big risk. Putting it in the safety meeting roster will keep it front of mind for everyone.
Electrical work is the concern of qualified electricians on a construction site, but everyone should be aware of how to stay safe around live wires—and how to determine what’s safe to touch. An electrical safety toolbox talk might also cover things like the safe use of power tools, working near power lines, and how to keep power cords tidy.
OSHA Safety Meeting Topics to Consider
As well as your typical topics outlined above, it’s a good idea to look to OSHA or the equivalent national safety authority for ideas. Responsible for regulating safety and health across all industries, they have a good overview of all that it takes. We wrote a post suggesting OSHA-recommended safety topics you may otherwise have overlooked to put in your toolbox talk schedule; these include:
- Ventilation and the importance of keeping air fresh and cool in confined spaces. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a real concern.
- Work hours, long shifts, and worker fatigue. This is a concern in many industries including construction—particularly when shift work comes into play. Rested, healthy workers are a win-win situation.
- Workplace violence. Whether it’s from the general public or coworkers, violence directed at any employee should not be tolerated, and procedures around this should be discussed.
- Incident/accident investigation. Whatever the term you use, conducting thorough investigations of any incidents or near misses is important in determining root cause and preventing them from happening again—and the process should be explained to all workers.
Killer Weather: Winter Safety Topics
Situational awareness is important for construction worker safety, and it’s important to be aware of how the weather can change a situation. Winter weather is a major hazard for sites in places that experience extreme cold, so you might need to consider the winter safety topics that we outlined in a previous blog post.
Caused by exposure to very cold temperatures, frostbite is a serious concern for construction workers. It can manifest as waxy skin that’s white or blue, numbness, tingling, or itching, or blisters. Discuss frostbite prevention which boils down to wearing the right cold-weather gear and taking regular breaks in warm places. Treatment includes gradual warming of affected skin, loose wrapping, and immediate medical attention.
This silent killer, a type of cold stress, should be avoided at all costs, and a safety meeting can make workers aware of how to prevent it, recognize it, and treat it. It happens when body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, so can be prevented by staying warm with appropriate clothing layers and regular breaks somewhere warm and sheltered. Signs include confusion, slurring of speech, shivering and then not shivering. It requires immediate professional medical attention, and in the meantime, helpers should replace wet clothing with dry, warm garments, cover the head, and move the victim to a dry, warm environment.
Falling risk is increased in the winter. Ice, snow, and rain make things slippery. A safety meeting might include discussing the importance of prompt ice and snow removal and how it can decrease the danger. It might also involve a reminder about using equipment like safety harnesses where they are required, and perhaps even when they aren’t strictly required according to weather conditions.
Make Safety Meetings Engaging with Some Fun
Above we have laid out some potential meeting topics to cover an array of safety scenarios. To drive your messages home, however, you need to create toolbox talks that engage and interest workers. Humor is a great way to do that, and we have written a blog post that details a few ways to inject fun into your meetings. Tips include:
- Jazz up your visuals with fun and funny features like memes, videos, and cartoons.
- Use examples from your workers and have them recount them, particularly those skilled in storytelling.
- Include games like quizzes in your meetings.
- Foster a fun and relaxed culture.
These might not work for your particular workforce—but making meetings fun is important for making them effective. Be creative!
Safety Before Paperwork
All of these safety meeting topics and tips require time for planning and executing—and time is what Safety Evolution offers. Streamlining the paperwork and processes involved in site safety means that workers and management alike have more time to engage in discussion and learning.
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