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Five Tips for Effective Toolbox Talks


Posted on June 17th, 2019

Superintendent watching construction workers on jobsite.

When imagining public speaking, the first pictures that come to mind are likely going to be dynamic motivational presentations, awards ceremonies, or political campaigns. Joining the construction industry, you probably didn't expect public speaking to be a job requirement, but as it turns out, pretty much any leadership role will involve presenting information to groups. If you're a superintendent or foreman, you know that part of your job is to share toolbox talks with your crews on a regular basis. While holding safety briefings shouldn't necessarily be a daunting task, it can be difficult to get a group of tired workers to listen attentively to a presentation on relatively dry subject matter at a meeting before they've had their first sips of coffee in the morning.

However, just because toolbox talk topics are serious, they don't have to be boring. If your crews are falling asleep during your talks, they're probably not retaining much of the information you're sharing. And if they don't learn, they are still going to be at-risk while on the job. So how do you get them to pay attention? We've rounded up five tips to help make your toolbox talks as effective as possible.

1. Location, Location, Location

Make sure the toolbox talks you are giving are relevant to the project. If possible, hold your safety meetings at the site of the hazard being discussed. By backing up your information with visual evidence of the risk, workers will be reminded of the associated safety practices when working in that area later on. In addition, hold talks at the appropriate time. If you talk about a safety measure that won't need to be taken for another month or so, your crews may forget the most important points.

2. It's Called a Briefing for a Reason

When sharing a toolbox talk, you don't need to drone on for hours and hours. If you only include the most relevant information in your talks, you will be able to hold your audience's attention. Plus, you'll get your crews back to work faster. Keep it short and sweet, just like this pointer.

3. Lighten the Mood

Obviously, jobsite safety is not a topic to be taken lightly, and by no means do we recommend making jokes about personal safety. But by tossing in some lighthearted commentary alongside the all the super serious stuff, you'll keep the crews engaged. Instead of focusing on the doom, gloom, risks, and unfortunate statistics, emphasize on how to be productive and proactive in preventing accidents. This is heavy stuff that could bring up bad memories for your workers - you never know what they may have seen or experienced on other jobsites.

4. Keep Them on Their Toes

By making your meetings interactive, the crew will be attentive and engaged in the toolbox talk topics. Throughout the talk, ask the attendees questions! You can keep the crew on their toes and get their minds set on safety. If you prompt attendees to repeat and recall information about the toolbox talk topic, they will likely have better retention in the long run.

5. Aim to Inspire

Any chance you get to speak to employees onsite provides the opportunity to inspire them to perform their best. When giving toolbox talks, remind your workers that they are each valuable team members, and that they all deserve to get home safely every day. By acting as an enthusiastic, charismatic leader on the jobsite, you will promote productivity and keep your projects going smoothly. You can even take a moment or two to recognize individuals for their exemplary safety-related behavior around the jobsite. A little praise goes a long way!

Improved Talks Make Safer Jobsites

Regardless of the toolbox talk topic, safety meetings should always leave a lasting impact on your crews. While toolbox talks are given for a variety reasons, including liability and regulations, safety is always number one, so making sure the attendees are going to pay attention is key. By holding talks at relevant locations, keeping them brief, staying positive, engaging the audience, and leaving an inspirational impression, you can increase compliance and leave workers feeling happy with their jobs. Effective leadership involves a variety of skills and responsibilities, but getting your employees to really listen to what you have to say assists in all facets of an authority role. Giving interesting, informative toolbox talks can make your jobsites safer while also assisting with employee satisfaction and team building.

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