Ah, the dreaded toolbox talk. Its goal is to inform work crews of safety related issues or events pertaining to the job site. More importantly, it is designed to start the employees’ day with a focus on safety. Occasionally, it only seems to succeed in causing anxiety and heartburn for field safety and site supervision. The common complaint is that, when performed daily, toolbox talks can become stale. During my last field safety role, I (like so many others) had to present a prepared toolbox talk six days a week. About three weeks in, I felt myself slipping into that mindset of, “my topics are getting stale”, “the guys don’t want to hear me drone on every morning” and “there just isn’t enough safety topics to keep things fresh”. Even to the seasoned safety veteran, it can be a daunting task. Fear not fellow Safety Nerds… I am here to put you back on the path.
“My Topics Are Getting Stale” – No they aren’t. Topics generally don’t change and they don’t get stale. They don’t begin interesting then grow boring. What gets stale is the delivery. HOW are we delivering the information? So we’ve figured out that it’s not the topic that is boring, it’s me. Great, thanks for the ego boost… So how do I spice it up?
- Retain your passion. Remember why you do what you do. Your goal is to keep employees safe. Get excited and stay excited. Your excitement will affect your employees.
- Find new things to discuss. There is a wealth of information on the internet (www.toolboxtalks.com is a great one) as well as all around you (There’s that Safety Nerd site I’ve been hearing great things about as well). Try to discuss topics that don’t get discussed quite as often. For example, reminding employees about safety on the way to and from work is equally as important to them as on the job safety. Talk to other contractors or crafts. See what they are discussing. Share your knowledge with them. There is a world of topics out there that are as relevant as you make them. Expand your horizons.
- Keep your poker face. Sometimes we have to discuss topics that we as safety professionals might not find interesting. That cannot show. If you present a topic peppered with eye rolls and heavy sighs, the employees will mirror you. Deliver every safety topic with the same level of interest and enthusiasm. It’s all or nothing.
“The Guys Don’t Want to Hear Me Drone On Every Morning” – You’re right, they don’t. No one wants to hear anyone drone on about anything. “Droning on” is usually the result of three things; a lack of enthusiasm, a lack of knowledge or a lack of confidence. Sometimes one of the three can cause the other two. It falls back on the presenter, not the information being presented.
- Know what you are discussing. I’m not suggesting you need to get a doctorate in every subject you discuss or that you shouldn’t talk about things of which you may not be a subject matter expert. I am saying, do your homework. If you are opting to discuss a subject that might be a little unfamiliar, read up a few nights prior. Knowledge builds confidence and confidence commands attention.
- Put it on them. There is no rule that states you must be the one to talk for the entire briefing. Spread the wealth. Ask the crew each day what they did the previous day to stay safe. Have an incident or a near miss? If the involved employee is willing, have them discuss it with the group. Interaction and participation is one of the best ways to keep people involved and interested.
“There Just Isn’t Enough Safety Topics To Keep Things Fresh” – During my time as a Project Safety Coordinator on a large rebuild project, I would find myself running out of presentation topics but hesitant to re-use a topic that I had gone over as little as three months prior. What I didn’t realize in my struggle to keep things fresh, was that the project had so much turn over in three months that there were a large number of personnel that had not heard my safety briefings the first time around. I wouldn’t recommend discussing the same five topics every week but there is large value to the employees in repetition. Space is out but definitely cover it more than once. As far as topics go, if you need new material, get out there and find it!
Hopefully I’ve provided a little bit of ammunition for you front line safety soldiers out there. As always, if you’d like to discuss any of what was covered further or have questions, let me know in the comments. And don’t forget to subscribe, like and share if you haven’t already!
Be safe out there.