Workplace safety meetings, sometimes called “toolbox talks” or “huddles”, are dedicated times for discussing safety issues and culture. Ideally, these safety meetings are opportunities for leaders and participants to voice concerns about immediate hazards, retraining on specific practices, and promoting a strong safety culture.
Effective safety meetings:
In the paragraphs below are 4 essential workplace safety topics to cover in safety meetings and toolbox talks.
Firstly, job sites are often dangerous areas with large machinery, unfinished buildings, open electric conduits – the list goes on. Each job site is filled with hazards that threaten workers’ safety and can cause injury or death.
In every safety meeting, the biggest hazards need to be identified so all crew members remain safe. One way to identify these hazards is by marking out zones with clear traffic paths so workers can stay out of harm’s way.
For example, OSHA specifically identifies certain hazards as the “Fatal Four” – falls, being struck by an object, electrocution, and caught in or between objects. Almost 60% of construction worker deaths occur due to the Fatal Four each year.
The second safety topic that should be in every toolbox talk, huddle, or meeting is safety training. Whether workers have been on the job for days, months, or decades, they need a refresher on safety practices.
Now, this is the perfect time to get workers engaged. Don’t just go through the motions hoping someone will catch you out of the corner of their eye. It’s not an airplane monologue (which you shouldn’t ignore either). It doesn’t matter if you cover the basics or something more complex like the correct use of a safety harness. Ask the crew to walk you through each step. If they make a mistake, it’s an opportunity to unteach bad habits.
Thirdly, avoiding safety risks is usually the main focus of safety meetings, but that doesn’t go far enough. Every crew member needs to know what to do if and, unfortunately, when a safety incident occurs.
From high-level reporting of injuries or major risks to basic use of personal protective equipment, your team needs to know who to talk to, how to document the incident and what steps to take to minimize the risk in the future.
Now, one of the toughest aspects of leading a safety meeting or toolbox talk is being a good communicator. Public speaking isn’t an innate ability for most people. It takes practice and often a good audience. Specifically, the best safety leaders let their crew voice their concerns, questions and sometimes doubts with courtesy and respect in mind.
Lastly, accountability for one’s own safety and actions must be in every safety meeting. Leaders often treat accountability as an unspoken rule – it’s not. The “I got this” mentality doesn’t work when safety is involved. In dangerous situations, workers are not responsible for only themselves, but everyone they work with.
It’s important to reinforce that accountability doesn’t require the blame of others. Acknowledging that more action could have been taken is far more powerful than pointing fingers.
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