Toolbox talks are often used as part of a good health and safety management system to refresh, renew and provide health and safety information. But beyond being good practice, are toolbox talks a legal requirement? Should you be doing them? And if so, how often?
When considering whether toolbox talks are a legal requirement, it is important to first ask, what is a toolbox talk?
A toolbox talk is a way of giving health and safety information to the workforce, and to start a health and safety conversation. It's a short 5-10 minute talk on a particular health and subject.
Find out more about toolbox talks in what is a toolbox talk?
Toolbox talks, specifically, are not a law. There's no 'toolbox talks at work act'. When you dive into the hundreds and thousands of pages of health and safety legislation, you are not going to see a regulation stating that you must deliver a toolbox talk or x number of toolbox talks per year.
But there is the letter of the law, and then there is the spirit of the law. And just because toolbox talks don't have there own regulation or act, doesn't mean they can't be part of your legal compliance.
Toolbox talks are good health and safety practice, and they do bring with them lots of benefits. A more engaged workforce is a safer workforce. And while they are not mentioned specifically in health and safety regulations, there are specific regulations relating to the provision of information and instruction. What is a toolbox talk? It's a way of providing information and instruction to your team!
Let's look at a couple of examples for where this requirement comes up in health and safety law.
2. General duties of employers to their employees...
- the provision of such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of his employees.
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act is the big one when it comes to health and safety law. It applies to every workplace. To all employers. And, it's the act that allows all other health and safety regulations to exist!
So the main health and safety act requires information, instruction, training to be given to employees. Then, various other regulations further specify relevant health and safety information must be provided.
10.—(1) Every employer shall provide his employees with comprehensible and relevant information on—
- the risks to their health and safety identified by the assessment;
- the preventive and protective measures;
13.(2) Every employer shall ensure that his employees are provided with adequate health and safety training.
(8) A contractor must provide each worker under their control with appropriate supervision, instructions and information so that construction work can be carried out, so far as is reasonably practicable, without risks to health and safety.
12.—(1) Every employer who undertakes work which is liable to expose an employee to a substance hazardous to health shall provide that employee with suitable and sufficient information, instruction and training.
And it doesn't stop there. Look at any set of health and safety regulations and you're likely to find the requirement to provide information and instructions. And that makes sense. Of course, your team need to know about the hazards they face and the risks involved with their work. They need to know what to do and how to do it safely.
So the law doesn't specifically say you need to give toolbox talks. But it does say you need to provide information. Toolbox talks are certainly a way of providing relevant health and safety information and instruction.
One of the most powerful things about toolbox talks is that this information and instruction can be delivered when it is most needed. On the job, where the risks are. And toolbox talks are focused. By discussing one subject in each talk, you can quickly get to the point. Keeping talks interesting and engaging. Making sure the important information is heard and understood.
Now, of course, toolbox talks aren't full training courses. They don't give your team all the information and training they need. But they are an opportunity to repeat important information, or update workers.
They can also be used as a short form of refresher training in between more substantial health and safety courses that may be carried out as less frequent intervals.
So, are toolbox talks a legal requirement? They may not be a specific legal requirement, but they will certainly help you to comply with health and safety laws.