Tool-box meetings

Tool-box meetings

Guest post by George Robotham

You can find heaps of free safety toolbox talk resources HERE

Regular, short, sharp, tool-box meetings can be an excellent means of getting the safety message to employees and resolving safety problems. These talks are a visual commitment to safety, open lines of communication and help to meet legislative requirements for consultation.

A search of the internet will reveal many sources of packaged, prepared tool box talks, many free. Whilst these have their uses they cannot beat analysing your audiences needs and presenting something to meet their needs.

The following advice is given for the conduct of these meetings-

  • Find a quiet area free of distractions
  • Use open-ended questions to promote involvement, positively reinforce responses to questions and comments
  • Remember the 6P rule-Prior Preparation Prevents P—s Poor Performance
  • Present topics that are immediately relevant to the needs of employees
  • A bit of humour does not go astray
  • Research your topic and generally be organised
  • Audience interaction is always a good idea
  • It helps if those presenting have had some training in personal presentation skills.
  • Avoid lecture style presentations wherever possible
  • When you cannot answer questions raised find out and provide feedback to the group
  • Have a set agenda and publish minutes, including to relevant noticeboards. The minutes record discussion and outline agreed actions
  • Topics can include a review of incidents, observations on practice, safety alerts, legislative updates and safety initiatives
  • A guest speaker or relevant audio-visual presentation can add variety
  • Tool-box meetings can be used to revise essential topics from inductions
  • Having a set time every month has advantages
  • The OHS professional can be a guest presenter and source of relevant material
  • The meetings can be general safety training, an explanation of a new safety initiative, a review of existing work procedures or a general safety motivation tool
  • Duration is generally 15-30 minutes
  • Generally conducted by the supervisor helped by the OHS professional as necessary
  • Thoughts are varied on whether the meeting should be strictly about safety, my view is that safety should be the dominant content
  • Be wary of people “saving up” their safety concerns until the tool-box meeting. Encourage prompt reporting of all safety concerns
  • Have an attendance sheet where participants sign off
  • Thank people for their participation
  • Lead with enthusiasm, passion and your own personal style
  • State your objective for the meeting and after the meeting evaluate to ensure the objective has been achieved
  • Involvement of senior people in the meeting can demonstrate commitment but may inhibit discussion
  • Start and end on time
  • Some organisations publish a 6 or 12 month schedule of tool box talks and provide training resource material to supervisors. Tool box talks may also be held prior to undertaking high risk or difficult tasks or when problems are noticed. Some organisations have a quick tool box meeting at the beginning of every shift to discuss the safety implications of the work to be done on that shift
  • You must create a no-fear, no-blame environment where people are prepared to honestly speak their mind without fear of recrimination
  • Define responsibilities of the parties
  • Establish ground rules
  • Manage disruptive behaviour
  • Summarise key points at the end of the meeting
  • Celebrate success and do not take yourself too seriously


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