Your construction crew may encounter potential dangers every day, but those encounters are less apt to become hazardous with regular toolbox talks. Toolbox talks are an easy way for you to reinforce construction safety training and compliance while keeping safety foremost in your workers’ minds. Holding a brief toolbox talk once a week is an ideal practice, as it allows you to cover a wide scope of topics while weaving construction safety awareness into your and your crew’s regular routine.
If you’re just starting or revamping your toolbox talk agenda, the best construction toolbox talks are those that touch on the most common hazards in the workplace or on the site.
Toolbox Talk 1: Scaffolding Safety from the Ground Below
Anyone on the site is subjected to the potential dangers of scaffolding, whether they climb onto the scaffold or not. Collapsing scaffolds can damage equipment and cause injuries, as can items falling from the scaffold onto anyone or anything below.
Start your scaffolding toolbox talk by pointing out how scaffold safety applies to the entire crew as well as anyone else who enters a worksite where scaffolding is present. Since people have limited attention spans, keep your toolbox talk brief, supplying additional information in handouts, on-demand videos or other learning materials.
Using props can emphasize your points while giving workers an up-close view of what you’re discussing. Hold your scaffolding toolbox talk while you’re standing near a scaffold, pointing out the ways accidents and injuries can be prevented by those working at ground level around a scaffold.
Safety tips for scaffolding can include:
- Be aware and wary of the scaffold: Always wear your hardhat around scaffolding, and never walk beneath the scaffold unless safety nets, toe-boards, screens or other precautionary measures are installed.
- Keep posts and supports strong: Never excavate soil near a scaffold post, not even a tiny amount, as it can comprise the support system. Also make sure the soil beneath the scaffold doesn’t become saturated with water from other construction processes and equipment.
- Know where you’re going: Never use forklifts, tractors or other mobile equipment around scaffolding unless you have a clear view of the scaffold as well as all parts of the equipment. If the view is obstructed, use a spotter to ensure you don’t run into the scaffolding.
Toolbox Talk 2: Fall Protection and Prevention
Falls account for the greatest number of deaths in the industry every single year, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This is a prime toolbox talk topic when your crew will be working in high places, and it can definitely expand into more than one toolbox talk with an array of topics to cover.
Props for this topic could include restraint systems, safety nets, fall arrest systems and other precautions you regularly use to prevent deaths and injuries from falls.
Safety tips for fall protection and prevention can include:
- Use platforms and lifts: Rather than always having to climb, consider using elevated platforms or aerial lifts when feasible. This can give workers safe elevated working surfaces where they may be more balanced and secure.
- Protect the edges: Always install measures to protect crew members working near edges of roofs and floors. Options can include warning lines, control line systems and toeboards.
- Cover any holes: Any open holes in the floor are extremely hazardous, even if they’re obvious. They may not be so obvious when a worker is focusing on something else. Cover them properly.
- Use fall-prevention systems: Body harnesses and safety net systems can play a huge role in fall prevention safety. Make sure your crew is trained on their proper installation and use as needed.
Toolbox Talk 3: Lethal Power of Electricity
Electricity may be taken for granted, but it also needs to be respected. It needs to be highly respected, as unintentional contact with an electrical current can quickly lead to injury or death.
While the general rule of thumb is to keep toolbox talks positive while focusing on preventing future mishaps instead of past failures, don’t hold back when it comes to outlining the dangers of electricity.
Safety tips for this toolbox talk can include a rundown of ways electricity can cause injuries or death:
- Loss of balance and falls: When electricity flows through the body, it can interfere with signals being sent through the nervous system. This can paralyze muscles while in contact with the current, resulting in a fall off a scaffold, ladder or other elevated platform.
- Impact on breathing and heart: Electricity running through the body can also paralyze muscles in charge of expanding the lungs, or even impede nerve signals that regulate heart rhythm. The result here could be distressed breathing, irregular heartbeat or even cardiac arrest.
- Burns and major damage: Since electricity generates heat as it moves through the body, you can suffer burns and internal tissue damage. Burns may appear where the current entered and exited the body.
These three toolbox talks are an ideal starting point for general construction safety, and you can fine tune or adjust the discussions as you wish. It’s also a good idea to document your toolbox talks, noting when they took place, who gave them, and the names of the workers who participated. This gives you a record of topics that were covered or still need to be reviewed, and the workers that were in attendance for the construction safety discussion.
Whatever topic you choose, make sure you leave a few minutes at the end of each talk for workers to ask questions and provide their own safety tips or stories on the topic. The more interaction and engagement you can prompt, the better workers will remember what was discussed. That helps you achieve the overall goal of keeping construction safety front and center in your workers’ minds.