Topics Covered In Toolbox Talks

By: Gen Wright

Toolbox talks are designed to be a comprehensive course in safety, while not sounding like a "course" at all. The talks take the form of a discussion where workers are encouraged to tell their own stories, convey their own ideas on safety, and express their doubts and queries. However, it is necessary to include some useful information about hazardous situations, safety equipment, legal regulations and emergency protocol.

A typical outline for toolbox talks includes the following -

1. Preliminaries:

a. Laws governing health and safety
b. Responsibilities of workers
c. Responsibilities of employers
d. Safety signs and what they mean

2. On-site rules

a. First aid provisions and training
b. Reporting accidents or "close shaves" to a safety officer
c. Rules regarding adequate hygiene and comfort of on-site workers

3. Protective gear and clothing

a. Protective clothing for separate sets of hazardous circumstances - loose stone, heat, water etc

b. Separate sections on protective gear for the head, eyes, ears, face, hands, feet and so on

4. Working in areas prone to mechanical accidents, evaluating safety levels at such sites and dealing with potential or actual accidents

a. Working at a height
b. Performing excavations
c. Working near railway tracks
d. Underground cable systems, sewers, water pipes
e. Dealing with nearby gas mains

5. Working in areas at risk of chemical accidents, evaluating risk and knowing the safety protection due to the workers

a. Working in mines

b. Working in closed spaces

c. Knowing commonly found gases and being able to identify them

d. Handling chemical fumes and knowledge of adequate protection as well as remedial measures

6. Hazardous hand-held implements - proper usage, inspecting equipment and dealing with accidents

a. Power tools

b. Abrasive or cutting tools

c. Cartridge tools

7. Other hazardous circumstances - identifying the first signs of distress, rules about adequate safety gear, and remedying health problems or accidents

a. Laser exposure

b. Vibrations

c. Excessive sunlight exposure

d. Cement

e. Welding

f. Information about the "Control of Substances Hazardous to Health" or COSHH regulations

8. Working with large lifting machines or mobile plants

a. Basic usage guidelines

b. Reversing and towing large mobile plants

c. Inspection of cranes, mobile plants etc

d. Traffic control

9. Fire prevention and extinguishing

10. Site cleanliness, efficiency and housekeeping

a. This can prevent easily avoidable freak accidents of any magnitude, from simple trips to fatal slips

b. Checking quality of equipment and working platforms before commencing work

11. How to handle, carry and store materials

Toolbox talks - which may be conducted in ten to fifteen minute weekly sessions on longer and less frequent ones - should be made as interesting as possible for the delegates present at the sessions. The outline is part of the educator's spadework, and should not become an obvious part of the lecture. Since the sessions need to drive their points across in a relatively short time period with no way to test how much of the message gets through, it is imperative that the talks stay spontaneous, yet targeted and relevant.

Such talks will generate safety awareness among workers, and this will eventually lead to less accidents. Workers tend to carry out discussions on their own, long after the talks have been completed.

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