6th October, 2020
Toolbox talks can be interesting if you pick the right topics, the right delivery, and you give the right information. In this blog post, we look at 9 ways to make sure your safety talks succeed, from choosing your subject to perfecting your delivery on site.
Toolbox talks can help you build a positive health and safety culture. They might not be directly required by law, but toolbox talks can certainly help you comply with health and safety legal requirements. But for toolbox talks to be effective, they actually need to make an impact. Don't just give a boring talk where nobody pays attention. Make your talk interesting. Leave a lasting impression and improve health and safety standards on your sites.
Safety talks are an important part of delivering the information and instruction needed to stay safe at work. And, they don't have to be boring. Here's how you can make sure your safety toolbox talks stay interesting.
Ok, so this doesn't make the talk itself more interesting, but it does help make sure your team are interested in the talk, rather than something else. First thing in the morning, we should be more alert. Maybe not when we first wake up, but certainly by the time we have had breakfast and made it to work. Get to your workforce before their minds are on other things, like lunch, dinner, end of work, deadlines etc, and you stand a chance of sparking some interest.
Toolbox talks should be short and snappy. Keeping attention, and holding interest in your talk is easier if it's short. Even the most interesting talk in the world is going to get boring if it goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on…
The whole point of a toolbox talk is to give a quick refresher on a health and safety topic. It’s not a full-blown health and safety course, and it shouldn't take half the day. Keep your talk under 10 minutes long and focus on just one important topic. By forcing yourself you stick to a short timeframe, you will only deliver the important information that will make the biggest impact.
We say this time and time again. Don't try to deliver a safety talk that has nothing to do with the work your team is undertaking. They will switch off before you even start. For people to really engage with the talk, it needs to be relevant and the topic needs to affect them in some way.
It is not always easy to pick a good toolbox talk topic. Think about the work you are doing that day, and give a talk that will be relevant to the tasks and activities they are doing. Or what about a health and safety issue that has recently caused a problem? Brush your team up on the essentials and make the workplace safer. The more relevant your talk is, the more personal you can make it. And if your team can apply the information to their work right away, the message will stick in their minds better.
For larger teams, doing different tasks, you may need to segment the delivery into smaller teams to keep things relevant and interesting for everyone.
What is the point of picking a great topic, if the talk itself sends your team to sleep? Remember, the toolbox talk should be short, but you still need to fit in all the most important information. Getting this information into your talk, in a condensed way, using lists, bullet points, quiz, pictures, anything to make it short and snappy, will help hold interest.
Catchy phrases also work, as long as you don’t overdo it. Things like think LITE in manual handling talks – Load, Individual, Task, Environment. You only have a short time to capture your team's attention during a toolbox talk. Catchy phrases or abbreviations can help make hard to digest information easier to remember.
What does your team need to know to work safely? Make sure you cover all the key points.
Start with why. Why did you choose this topic? Why should anybody care about it? Why is this health and safety toolbox talk important? Maybe there have been a large number of near misses associated with the subject? Maybe there are a lot of fatalities associated with this topic in your industry? Once your team understand how the subject may directly affect them and their work, they are more likely to be interested.
Answer this one question at the start of your talk. If your audience can understand why you are giving the talk, and how important it is, they are more likely to be interested from the start.
Oh and, once you pick a topic, stick to it. Toolbox talks should cover a single health and safety topic. Don’t try to cover too much in one go, or your talk will quickly lose momentum and start to get boring. If you have more than one topic you want to cover, that's great. Schedule other topics for future talks. Because toolbox talks are short, you can easily cover 5 topics in a week. Just not all in one session.
A good structure, and a prepared delivery, is going to go so much better than an unprepared talk with potentially vague information. It can be easy to jumble various bits of information together on a subject. But what are the important points you are trying to make? Make sure all the key facts are covered. Just because a toolbox talk should be short, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t follow a simple structure, from an introduction to addressing key points, to a quick summary at the end. This will help the key information stand out. For example, in our toolbox talks, we tend to follow a structure of 5 main sections. Introduction, importance, rules and regulations, guidance, summary. 5 sections in 5 minutes. Quick, short and snappy.
If you're giving the talk in person, just reading information word for word off a sheet is never going to sound interesting, or give the impression that the talk has been planned. Use slides, handouts, visuals, video, anything to help you deliver the information in an interesting way.
However you choose to deliver your talk, a confident, high energy delivery will help to hold interest in the discussion. This is especially important if you are presenting the talk yourself. Do you find your talk boring? If you do, you can guarantee that so will everyone else. Your voice and body language will give away your interest level. If you’re not interested, don’t expect your team to be. Pick a subject that interests you. Pick a topic that matters to the work you are doing. Add some interaction, ask questions, get feedback, whatever makes the talk more interesting than just reading out your notes. The feedback you get back from your workforce might suggest new and safer ways of working.
Don't expect to turn up and give a toolbox talk with no preparation. And be ready for any questions your team might have on the topic of your talk. It’s tricky to make a toolbox talk interesting if you are un-prepared about the subject. You will probably end up rambling or worse, giving the wrong information. Do your research, or download one of our toolbox talk templates.
If you feel nervous or unprepared, practice first, and make any changes if you feel your interest dropping.
With modern technology, there are many different ways you can use to deliver your talk. Meeting rooms might remind some of your team of school classrooms, and perhaps not everyone enjoyed school lessons. The environment itself can send interest low, so give some thought to what format will best deliver the information.
Toolbox talks don’t have to be delivered in meeting rooms, and every talk doesn't need to follow the same format. Try site walkarounds, videos, demonstrations, apps, online, handouts, etc. There are lots of different toolbox talk formats you can choose to help save time and make talks interesting. The only limit is your imagination.
Asking questions and checking responses is a great way of checking your audience has understood the talk. Questions also help engage your team with the talk, a bit of interaction can help make the talk much more interesting for both the delivery (gaining feedback) and the audience (getting involved). It can help reinforce what has been learned, and be rewarding for the team, giving them an interest and an incentive to listen to the information.
Need help delivering toolbox talks? Get started with 30+ free toolbox talks for construction ready for you to download and use and site! Or get access to 100+ talks, records and reports with the Talks Plan membership.
This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.
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