22nd September, 2022
Toolbox talks don't have to be boring! When done right, they have a significant positive impact on the health and safety of your workforce on site. Here's how you can give an effective toolbox talk that will help your team work safer and reduce the number of near misses and accidents.
When done right, toolbox talks can have a significant positive impact on the health and safety of your workforce on site. They can help create a positive health and safety culture within your organisation, and help reduce the number of near misses and accidents - this is particularly important in the high-risk industries, like construction.
So how can you deliver an effective toolbox talk?
Because - let's face it - most people find toolbox talks boring. They want to get on with their work, not sit around listening to health and safety information.
To get positive results, you need the communication skills to deliver a short, snappy, and interesting talk that gets your team's attention. But some site managers have little presentation training or experience. And not everyone likes public speaking.
It doesn't have to be daunting, after all, you speak to your workmates every day. So, if you're happy to do that, then having a 5-minute conversation about a health and safety topic shouldn't seem like much of a challenge.
These simple tips can help you in your toolbox talk delivery:
Once you've picked which topic your toolbox talk will be about, you need to prepare your talk. And preparation cannot be skipped (sorry!).
It doesn't matter how well you know a topic, your talk is never going to be effective if you don't prepare. You've only got 5 minutes to deliver the most important information - without waffling on about every little detail.
A little bit of preparation can help you get your facts right, answer questions, and get your point across.
If you want to skip the prep, we've prepared 100+ toolbox talks documents for you!
You and your team probably use much of the same lingo, and it's fine to use that in your talk. But take care to avoid jargon.
For example, if you're telling your team they need to use an FFP3* and they don't know what one is, they might be too busy wondering about it or Googling for answers to listen to what else you have to say.
*A high protection dust mask.
If your talk is easy to follow, people are less likely to switch off. Break the subject down into key sections, for example, an introduction, why it's important, and the safety measures needed. Use simple words and phrases and try to avoid technical language - or explain any that you need to use.
Can everyone understand your toolbox talk? Consider new or inexperienced workers, and also workers where English is not their first language.
The good news is, you don't have much to prepare. There are a few reasons why we recommend keeping toolbox talks to around a 5-minute maximum.
Keeping your talk short will help you get the important information in, and kick out the unnecessary. If your talk needs to be longer, your topic is too big. Break it down into several smaller subjects.
Now you've done your preparation, it's time to practice. Practice makes perfect - yes, it's a cliché - but it’s true. If you want to communicate a subject well, you need to know it well yourself.
Reading off a script will not hold the attention of your audience, so get to know the presentation, read through it a few times, and familiarise yourself with the format and structure of the talk you want to deliver.
If you practice first, your talk will go much smoother. It might seem daft at first, but the more talks you do, the easier it will become and the less you will need to practice.
Try not to get sidetracked by other subjects. Toolbox talks should focus on one topic - if you go off on a tangent or talk for too long, your team will lose interest.
If another subject comes up and it doesn’t require immediate attention, use it as the topic for your next toolbox talk. If it does require urgent attention, finish your toolbox talk, and address the issue afterwards.
If you try to cover more than one topic or too much in a talk, then the delivery will be diluted, and the message could get lost in the middle.
You need to keep your audience’s attention with a short, direct toolbox talk - but that doesn't mean you should rush what you are saying. If anything, you should speak slowly and clearly.
Monitor the speed at which you are talking and keep at a nice steady pace. If you have already practised your talk, you can be confident the information will fit in the 5 minutes without rushing.
Take a breath after a key statement. It's better to deliver just the important information clearly, rather than try to rush through lots of information that gets forgotten.
If you want others to be interested in what you have to say, you need to be interested in what you have to say! If you find your talk boring, change it! What would make it memorable? A demonstration? A video? An interesting fact? A surprising statistic?
Once you find your talk interesting and valuable, your enthusiasm for the topic will show. You can focus on delivering a clear message and help your workers to understand the importance of good health and safety practices on site.
Sick of boring toolbox talks? Here are 9 ways to make your toolbox talks interesting.**
People will also switch off if they feel like they are being lectured or told off. While it's important to let your team know when things are going wrong or rules are not followed, keep that as the reason for the talk, rather than the content of the talk.
People will be more inclined to listen to a positive toolbox talk. Focus on how a safer workplace is better for everyone, and grow positive attitudes towards health and safety.
Make sure you give your audience plenty of eye contact throughout the talk, and that you are speaking loud enough to be heard by everyone. If people can't hear you or don't feel engaged, they will switch off before you finish.
You keep people alert, you can also relate to things that have happened at work. Maybe an experience one of your team members had with the topic or an example of good practice that happened recently.
Some of the most important outcomes from your toolbox talk will come from the questions and feedback you receive from your workers.
Communication is a two-way process - show your workers that you are interested in their questions, thoughts and opinions and that you value their feedback.
Give your team plenty of opportunities to speak up and be heard. Rather than asking a yes or no question like "does anyone have any questions", try asking for input, such as the worker's own experiences of the topic, to get the conversation going.
The only way to really know if your toolbox talk is effective is to see if it impacts how safely people work. First, you can check if the workforce has understood the talk.
To do this, don't simply ask if they have understood - it is far easier to say yes than no, even if they don’t understand fully. Ask questions on the subject area and run through various aspects of the talk again if required.
This goes hand in hand with engaging your team and getting them involved in the talk. You'll be able to pick up any areas of misunderstanding and adjust your talk accordingly.
The good thing about toolbox talks is - they don't have to be intimidating. They are not training courses or long presentations. You don't have to stand for an hour delivering a speech. It's 5 minutes, and if you're prepared, it should fly by!
Think of your toolbox talks more as a quick health and safety chat about a particular topic.
Need help delivering toolbox talks? Let us handle it for you with our online health and safety talks membership.
We also have a library of toolbox talks available for download, browse our toolbox talk templates to help you deliver an effective health and safety talk.
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.
Get toolbox talks for you and your team with HASpod talks membership.Talks Plan
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