14th September, 2018
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 reduce the number of near misses and accidents - this is particularly important in the high-risk industries, like construction.
But how can you deliver an effective toolbox talk?
To get positive results, you need the communication skills to deliver an effective toolbox talk, but some site managers have little training or presentation 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. The trick is, to prepare your topic, keep it short, and on point.
These simple tips can help you in your toolbox talk delivery:
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, familiarise yourself with the format and structure of the talk you want to deliver.
Practice first and your talk will go much smoother - the more you do, the less you will need to practice.
Try not to get sidetracked by other subjects or topics. Toolbox talks should focus on one subject, if there is another important subject that comes up and it doesn’t require immediate attention, use it as the subject 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. Monitor the speed at which you are talking and keep at a nice steady pace.
It's better to deliver just the important information in a clear way, rather than try to rush through lots of information that gets forgotten.
Avoid jargon and make sure your talk is easy to follow. Break the subject down into key sections, for example, an introduction, key points and key safety measures.
Use simple words and phrases and try to avoid technical language - or explain if you do need to use it.
Consider new or inexperienced workers, also give consideration to workers where English is not their first language.
If you want others to be interested in what you have to say, you need to be interested in what you have to say. Show enthusiasm for the topic, you should aim to deliver a clear message and get your workers to understand the importance of good health and safety practices on site.
People will be more inclined to listen to a positive talk, and the toolbox talk should be all about proactive positive attitudes towards health and safety on site.
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.
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, so make sure you show your workers that you are interested in their questions, thoughts and opinions and that you value their feedback.
Give them plenty of opportunities to speak up and be heard. Try asking for input, such as workers own experiences of the topic, to get the conversation going.
Make sure that the workforce has understood the toolbox talk. Don't just 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.
The good thing about toolbox talks is, they don't have to be intimidating. They are not training courses or long presentations. Think of them more as bitesize health and safety chats 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.