10th February, 2021

The Problem With Toolbox Talks (And How To Fix It)

There's a problem with toolbox talks, in that they are just not being done as often as they should be (if at all). If this sounds like your workplace, then don’t worry, you're not alone. On many of the sites we have visited, it is reported that very few toolbox talks are carried out.

The Problem With Toolbox Talks (And How To Fix It) header image

The problem isn't the toolbox talks themselves, but more a lack of toolbox talks at all. And toolbox talks have many benefits. They bring attention to hazards. They raise awareness of risks. They help make health and safety a priority when it is needed the most, at the point that work is being carried out. So when toolbox talks are missing from the daily site routine, it's a sign that health and safety standards are slipping.

In most cases, it’s not that the management doesn’t understand the importance of toolbox talks, or that they are useful for providing the information instruction and training that their team requires. And it’s not that they just simply forget. It's not even that they don't have the time to do a toolbox talk, after all, it's just a 5-minute chat that can be fit in on arrival or the morning break.

More often than not, it’s that when they come to do a toolbox talk, they don’t have anything prepared, and so it’s put on the to-do list for another day. But then that day comes around, and it's the same problem. The site manager doesn't know how to start the toolbox talk, what to say, or what topic to discuss.

And toolbox talks should be done regularly to see the most benefits. Ideally, toolbox talks should be done daily, or at least weekly.

Here are 9 reasons to have daily toolbox talks in your workplace.

Once they become part of the routine, the results to improvements in health and safety culture in the workplace and knowledge in the workforce are always positive.

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So how can we fix this problem?

You can fix this with time and resources. And to be honest, not even that much time or resources, it just takes a little bit of planning. Best of all, it doesn't have to cost anything, if you choose to do it yourself.

You can prepare your toolbox talks yourself, and have them ready to deliver. This is great if you have a good knowledge of the information you want to give, and for the site or business-specific rules or topics. Picking a toolbox talk topic is simple, just think about the work you are doing or the health and safety hazards in your workplace.

For example, if you're at the start of a construction project, you might want to cover construction site rules or PPE use. If you're re-tiling a roof, you might choose to talk about working at height, scaffolding or roof work. If you are doing groundwork, you might discuss underground services, HAVS and vibration, or outdoor working.

Think about your work, for each activity you carry out, I bet you can come up with at least 5 health and safety hazards or topics that relate to that task. Here's a list of 101 construction site safety topics to get you started.

Just pick one topic for each toolbox talk. You don't want to cover too much in a single talk because it should be short, snappy and to the point. The best topic to pick is one that can have an immediate impact, so choose something relevant to the work being done that day. You want to target that single topic and deliver the most important information about it. If you have more subjects you want to discuss, that's great, it means you already have tomorrows talk topic ready!

construction workers on scaffolding

Remember, a toolbox talk isn't a full days training. It's a 5 to 10-minute talk, on a single topic, to refresh knowledge and raise awareness. After the talk, your team should be able to get on with their day with a little extra health and safety wisdom at the front of their minds.

If you don’t have any resources to hand and you're not sure where to start, we have prepared some handy toolbox talk downloads (and many are free!), so you can be ready to deliver your talk in a couple of clicks.

Once you have the resources in place, it’s just simply a case of getting your team together to deliver the talk. Yes, this does take time, but remember, toolbox talks should only be 5 – 10 minutes long, and you can time your talk for a point in the day when everyone is together anyway, like on arrival to the site, as part of your morning briefing, or at the end of a break.

So if you haven't had any toolbox talks, this problem can be fixed in 2 steps:

  1. Prepare your talk (or download one)
  2. Deliver your talk

You might be surprised how easy it becomes once toolbox talks are part of your daily routine.


With the Talks Plan membership, toolbox talks can happen anywhere, on-site, in the office, or somewhere in between, from a computer, tablet or mobile.

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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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