5th March, 2020

What Makes A Good Toolbox Talk?

A good toolbox talk requires a combination of factors… good subject, good content, good delivery, and good records. Get it wrong and your toolbox talk could end up being boring or worse, pointless. Get it right and make a real difference to the health and safety of your workforce.

What Makes A Good Toolbox Talk? header image

A good toolbox talk is engaging, interesting and informative. To be successful, it requires a combination of factors… good subject, good content, good delivery, and good records. Without any of these essential requirements, your toolbox talk could end up being boring or worse, pointless.

Toolbox talks should be part of your standard routine at work. Ideally, toolbox talks should be carried out daily. A quick recap of a health and safety topic, highlighting important information to your workforce. Raising awareness. Improving safety standards. Helping to keep you and your team safe.

But even when they are carried out, toolbox talks might not be getting the results you expect. Because, to do their job, any old talk won't do. Boring, rushed or excessive talks are often ignored or avoided. Which defeats the object and doesn't help anyone. You need your team to be at least listening for a toolbox talk to have any impact at all.

A good toolbox talk will be short and to the point, after all, it should be helping your team to work safely, not preventing them from working at all! It gets across the important points so that they stay in the minds of workers throughout the day. And it's delivered in a way that is easy to digest and repeat - so that talks can be part of the regular workday.

Toolbox talks should be quick and easy, but they do take time to prepare (unless you use our online toolbox talk platform of course!). But as the saying goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. You can't expect to be able to give a good toolbox talk on the spot. You need a plan. What are you going to talk about? What are the key facts? What could go wrong? What examples do you have from your workplace? What topics are most relevant to the work you are currently doing?

Health and safety talks are important, and if you get it right, they can make a real difference in the health, safety and wellbeing of your workforce.

Subject

The first step for delivering a good toolbox talk is to pick the right subject.

There is no point delivering a talk on lone working if your team are working together on a new build project, and haven’t done any lone work in the past year. Not only will this make the talk boring, because it is not considered relevant by your team, but it will also make the talk pretty pointless. They won't be able to put any of the information into action, and it will quickly get forgotten.

It's much better to do a talk on lone working just before some lone work takes place - so that the information is fresh in the mind at the time it is needed.

Look for issues that are affecting staff, and areas where safety standards could be improved. Target these topics first. Pick a subject that is relevant to the work that is being done, like site security, site plant, lifting operations, working at height etc. Pick any topic that you feel is important to the tasks and activities that are current. Stuck for ideas? Check out 100 toolbox talk ideas.

forklift truck
Pick a subject that is relevant to your work

Content

Now you have your subject, you need to put together the content of the talk. Why are you talking about the subject? What's important about it? Are there any rules or procedures your team needs to know about? What's the worst-case scenario? What does best practice look like? How does it apply to your workplace?

To keep the talk on point, make sure you get in all the important information, and that the information you include is up to date. But don't try to cram in everything about the subject. A toolbox talk is not a full health and safety course, just a 5-minute refresher.

If it’s a big subject, for example, COSHH, you could break it down into smaller toolbox talks spread over several days, e.g. COSHH assessment, dust, WELs, fuel etc.

Delivery

You can deliver toolbox talks in a variety of ways. Traditionally, talks would be carried out face-to-face with one person giving the talk and the rest of the team listening. But there are lots of other methods of delivery available like online, apps, video, messaging and handouts.

When you deliver your talk, if the subject is relevant and the content is good, you should already have some interest from your team. To keep this interest, deliver the talk in a positive way. If you are delivering the talk in person, make sure you have gone over the talk beforehand and are familiar with the topic. Practice the talk and prepare for any questions. If you are using another method fo delivery, like video or online, make sure everyone can access it and understands any steps required to complete the talk.

Whatever way you choose to deliver your toolbox talks, check that it engages your team and works for you and your business.

chat toolbox talk format example

Records

If you don’t keep records, your toolbox talks could end up getting repeated, or people missing important subjects. What topics have been covered? Who has done which talk? Did everyone understand? Did everyone listen? Does anyone need more information?

Keeping records will help you to know what subjects have been delivered, and assess any gaps in knowledge. They are also a great way of providing evidence of health and safety standards to clients or to reach certain standards of accreditation.

Records could be as simple as a register of toolbox talk attendance, or even better, a quick assessment of the subject covered, so know who has completed and understood the talk.


Wondering how to come up with enough topics for regular toolbox talks? Check out our blog post with details of 100 toolbox talk topics you can use. Or manage your toolbox talks online with the Talks Plan.

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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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