Toolbox Talks and the Importance of Safety in Construction
In construction, safety is everything. Without the correct safety measures, the doors are open for all kinds of trouble like injured workers, lawsuits, OSHA, bad EMR ratings, or worst of all, a jobsite death. Construction hazards are many and with building materials, toxic chemicals, machinery, heavy equipment, heights, sharp objects everywhere, it's no secret that working on a construction site is dangerous. But one of the biggest tools in the pockets of construction superintendents, foremen, and safety managers is prevention. With the right preventative measures like toolbox talks and safety checklists, injuries, fatalities, and other consequences can be avoided.
Toolbox talks are brief safety meetings conducted on the construction site that focus on bringing awareness to safety topics like jobsite hazards, potentially dangerous workflows, important precautions, and more. Toolbox talks are necessary safety refreshers on the jobsite and also allow for open discussion of questions, comments, and concerns regarding safety. While commonly known as tailgate meetings or safety briefings, toolbox talks are an effective way to bring workers together, strengthen safety culture, and educate the field on the best safety practices.
However, conducting toolbox talks are another task that is tacked on to a field superintendent's list every week. Whether they are done once a week or multiple times a week, it always takes time to prepare a toolbox talk. The workflow usually looks like this:
- Decide on a toolbox talk topic.
- Research and look online for a free version of that topic.
- Print toolbox talk pdf.
- Perform talk and collect signatures.
- Scan toolbox talk and sign-in sheet at the office, or keep it in a binder.
Even after these steps, the work isn't complete. Safety managers have to manually enter toolbox talk information into an excel spreadsheet to report to executives.
Although necessary, one of the biggest pains with toolbox talks here is that every time a superintendent or safety manager wants to do one, it's never automated or scheduled which makes it a process every time. But thanks to modern tech, that workflow just got a whole lot faster. At Raken, we are excited to be releasing our Toolbox Talks feature this June which is going to revolutionize the way toolbox talks are set up and performed.
Within Raken, there will be a tab that is dedicated to safety and Toolbox Talks. Instead of that six-step workflow above, here's how Raken can help you do toolbox talks:
- Decide on a toolbox talk topic.
- Open up Raken and find the appropriate toolbox talk for that topic.
- Perform toolbox talk and collect signatures within the app, or take a picture of a sign-in sheet.
- Once saved, the information is automatically accessible to a safety manager or other seats on the project.
What isn't pictured in this workflow is the benefit of bulk scheduling toolbox talks. With Raken, superintendents and safety managers can schedule talks on whatever cadence they want, making it a no brainer when they need to establish some safety measures on a jobsite. This way, it's easy to conduct toolbox talks faster and more often, keeping safety measures fresh in the minds of those working in the field and promoting a safe culture in the company.
Communication is paramount in making sure jobs are completed on time and on budget but is also important in ensuring safety on a jobsite. Toolbox talks are an effective form of communication alongside safety checklists. Safety checklists in construction can be used as a way to log information and summarize what happened on a jobsite in terms of safety that day. This creates an opportunity to point out hazards, dangerous processes taking place, or any other noteworthy safety observations.
Surveys are a built-in function inside of Raken daily reports. These surveys are customizable and include questions that act as a broad safety checklist. Setting up questions is easy and they will serve to paint a picture of what happened on the jobsite that day in terms of safety:
There are various styles of safety checklists such as PPE checks, fall protection, electrical protection, and other hazard protection, so one of the questions on this list can be, "Were all safety checklists completed today?".
Infographics on the jobsite are also a good reminder of safety measures to take for specific circumstances. Here's an example of a good safety checklist infographic that Skanska has used for ladder safety:
When safety checklists are done every day, it helps keep safety a priority those working in the field and it only takes a couple of minutes. Like toolbox talks, safety checklists, and jobsite infographics prevent a lot of safety mishaps from happening and make for a safer workplace all around.
Potential Peril in Construction
Unsafe circumstances on a jobsite can undoubtedly hurt a construction firm from a regulation perspective. Bad safety practices lead to accidents and impact the general contractor or subcontractor's EMR rating. The more accidents, the higher the rating. The higher the rating, the more expensive things get. Insurance goes up, job costs go up, and thus bids go up resulting in fewer jobs won. But more importantly, unsafe circumstances on a jobsite not only make way for accidents but even death.
Unfortunately, fatalities on jobsites aren't so rare and most are usually avoidable by taking thorough safety precautions. For instance, falls are one of the most common causes of death on a jobsite. A NIOSH (The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) statistic says that, "Falls remain the leading cause of work-related deaths in construction, accounting for about one-third of the total number of fatalities in this industry (370 of the 991 construction fatalities recorded in 2016)."
While the number of deaths from falls is alarming, even more so is the number of deaths in total in 2016 from construction. With these kinds of numbers, there's clear evidence that better safety precautions can be taken. Construction safety checklists and toolbox talks are a couple of simple ways to ensure safety on the jobsite and cut down injuries in the construction industry. Technology to improve safety on jobsites is out there and it's easier than ever to make life on the construction site safer for everyone.