It can be hard to think of a toolbox talk topic for your next safety meeting if you’re in a hurry. If your shift starts in half an hour and you haven’t thought of a topic yet, it can be daunting.
Fortunately, there are hundreds of safety topics you could cover. We’ve put together this list of 10 broad topics that will be sure to spark some ideas for something that is relevant to your workplace.
If you feel like you keep going over old ground because you’ve run out of topics you might be tempted to reduce the frequency of your toolbox talks. We don’t recommend this! A recent Safety Performance Report shows conducting toolbox talks daily can cause a 64% reduction in the total recordable incident rate compared to only holding monthly talks.
What is a Toolbox Talk?
A toolbox talk is a brief safety meeting (less than 10 minutes) held just before a shift starts. Also known as a pre-start or take five safety talk, the purpose of a toolbox talk is to create a discussion about safety and get workers paying attention to the job at hand.
The topic of a toolbox talk should be specific to safety on that work site. They can be used to pass on important safety information but also work as a prompt for employees to talk about safety and identify potential hazards in their workplace before they start work.
Here are 10 safety talk topics to help you come up with ideas for your next toolbox talk. Remember: keep your talk brief and stick to just one topic. Including too many messages in one talk will confuse people and make them tune out.
#1 First Aid
While it’s important to talk about safety to prevent injuries in the first place, first aid information and training is just as important. Make sure employees know what to do if a colleague is injured.
Identify who the first aid officers are and how to find and contact them. Knowing how to raise help and where the first aid kit lives is important.
During your toolbox talk, show people where the first aid kits are kept and if there is one, where the first aid room is.
#2 Hazardous Chemicals
Many workplaces have chemicals that are used or stored on site. Some people aren’t aware of the dangerous situations that can occur when chemicals aren’t stored and used safely.
Use your toolbox talk to discuss the risk of chemicals found on site, how to handle them, appropriate PPE and where the data safety sheets are located. Even if most of your people aren’t handling chemicals, they need to know what to do if there is a spill or accident.
If your site has eye wash stations make sure everyone knows where they are and how and when to use them.
#3 Manual Handling
When workers are in a rush or concentrating on something else, it’s easy to forget safe manual handling techniques. Hazardous manual handling is one of the biggest causes of injuries in Australian workplaces.
An object doesn’t need to be that heavy to cause serious damage if it’s handled incorrectly. Your toolbox talk can be a good time to demonstrate how to safely perform specific tasks in your workplace. Remind them to stop, assess and plan their actions before lifting anything.
#4 Personal Protective Equipment
It’s easy to be complacent about personal safety equipment. If it’s not worn correctly, the wrong size or damaged it may not be effective. Some workers might not think they need ear protection or the job they’re doing isn’t that risky so a toolbox talk is a good time to remind everyone about the PPE that they need to use to stay safe on the job. Demonstrate how to check safety equipment is in good working order and how to use it correctly.
#5 Working at Heights
Working at heights becomes second nature to some workers but it’s a high risk activity. Too many workers are killed or seriously injured by falls every year in Australian workplaces.
A toolbox talk before a shift where staff are working at heights can be used to show staff how to access and exit the site safely. Point out the measures and equipment in place to prevent falls. It’s essential that anyone working at heights has had the right training and holds the correct tickets.
A site’s working conditions can change from one shift to the next remind people what they need to look out for and make sure everyone understands and follows safe work procedures for working at heights.
#6 Working in Hot Weather
Australia has some of the harshest working conditions in the world. The heat in summer can reach the mid 40s in many parts of the country. At the start of summer, use your toolbox talk to remind workers of the dangers of working in high heat and give them techniques and tips to stay safe in harsh conditions.
A reminder about how much water they need to drink, appropriate sun protection clothing and how to identify and treat the signs of heat stroke will help keep your team safe on a hot day.
#7 Incident Reporting
Workers can’t hear it enough – incident reporting is a big part of improving safety on site. Most staff know that a death or serious injury is a notifiable incident that must be reported to SafeWork Australia but a toolbox talk can remind people about the value of reporting less serious incidents.
Make sure they understand that incident reporting is about allocating blame to any one worker or team – it’s there to make the workplace safer for everyone.
If the organisation isn’t made aware of every incident, then training and procedures can’t be improved to reduce the chance of the same accidents happening again. Make sure people understand how and when they should report an incident, who to report it to and how to submit any paperwork. Make it easy for staff to report safety incidents.
#8 Electrical Hazards
Some workers become complacent working with electricity. Your toolbox talk could remind workers that only an electrician can only complete electrical work and how to correctly use and read isolation tags.
Another electrical hazard topic idea is the safe use of extension cords – how to check the cord for damage or frayed insulation, protecting cords from damage while using them, placing cords properly or covering them to avoid creating a tripping hazard etc. There are many potential electrical hazards on construction sites and each could be covered as its own safety topic.
#9 Hand Tool Inspections
Hand tools are an everyday part of life on most work sites. They make the job easier and safer because they reduce manual efforts of a repetitive nature that can lead to soft tissue injuries. But hand tools can also cause cutting and crushing injuries.
Your toolbox talk should remind employees to check their tools at the start of the shift. If a tool should be sharp, sharpen it. If a power tool has a damaged electrical cord, replace it. A few minutes spent doing an inspection of your tools before using them can save many hours off work with an injury.
Your toolbox talk topic could cover the hazards of demolition on site. Explain the risk management plan at the start of the shift to ensure all workers know the risks and what they have done to reduce them. Not all demolition work is expected. Unplanned structure collapses and dropped objects are risks to remind all workers of.
Still need safety talk ideas?
If you’ve covered these safety topics before or some of them don’t apply to your site, take a walk around the site and pay attention to potential hazards or risky activities. Any one of them could be a good topic for a talk. Ask your team questions and ask them for suggestions – they may have noticed potential problems or have questions about safe procedures on the site but have been afraid to ask. The point of a safety talk is to open up dialogue, make everyone aware of safety and improve communication.