Toolbox Talks

Most Electrical contractors use ToolBox Talks as a component of their company safety program. Many clients and general contractors require some type of safety meeting be conducted on a weekly basis.

The Toolbox Talk is frequently used to meet these requirements. They remind workers to be safe and demonstrate management’s commitment to safety. Toolbox Talks, also known as Tailgate Talks and Safety Talks, are brief safety presentations usually given by first-line supervisors in the field. Binders of “canned” talks can be purchased from many sources. They are usually arranged by topic that identify specific industry hazards.

Each talk is one or two pages in length and can be read by foremen to workers on the job. Training is the key to an effective safety program. Effective safety training should be ongoing, meet specific objectives and address OSHA requirements. Toolbox Talks can be used to provide effective safety training. With a little time and effort they can become the heart of your safety program.

Toolbox Talks can be conducted weekly, on the job, by your foremen. Many safety professionals believe that first-line supervisors should be the best-trained people in an organization. They are in the best position to prevent accidents and are the first representatives of management on the scene of an accident.

The decisions they make can save or cost your organization thousands of dollars. Teaching creates the highest level of retention. Weekly Toolbox Talks can provide ongoing safety training, making your foremen the best-trained people in your organization.

The OSHA regulations contain a long list of training requirements for electrical contractors. The first step is to determine what training you need to provide. Products like NECA’s Safety Expert System can make this process simple. It identifies the specific requirements of many OSHA standards. In addition, it provides hundreds of safety talks that have been developed to address the training requirements in the regulations.

You will also need to determine what additional training is required for an effective program. All hazards on the job must be controlled. Workers need to know what hazards are present and what actions they need to take to be safe.

Company policies and procedures can all be communicated through the Toolbox Talk. The introduction of new tools and equipment can also be managed in the weekly presentation. OSHA regulations, accident reports and common sense will help you determine exactly what training needs to be provided.

The key to an effective Toolbox Talk is in the preparation. You can cover a good deal of material in 10 or 15 minutes each week. The more time you invest in the preparation, the better the training will be. The Toolbox Talk should serve as a lesson plan.

It should identify the length of the presentation, materials required and objectives. The objectives will determine how the information will be presented.

When formulating your objective, you must consider the audience. What is their background, experience and ability? Next, identify what behavior you expect when the training is completed. Do you want participants to demonstrate their ability to fit-check a respirator or identify the location of the material safety data sheets?

The objective should also describe any conditions that need to be met for the objective to be achieved. Finally, you must define the degree of accuracy you expect from the participants. For example, you may require a score of 70 percent to pass a written test or demand 100 percent accuracy in the use of fall-protection equipment. The lesson plan should be based on the type of instruction being provided. Skills are taught using demonstration lessons. Knowledge is taught using information lessons. The content of information lessons resemble traditional Toolbox Talks. The talks should introduce the subject, identify the objectives, and present the information.

Asking review questions at the end of the talk is a good way to recap the material and ensure that the objectives have been reached. You should take the time to point out specific examples and invite questions and comments.

Demonstration lessons require the instructor to demonstrate the skill. Participants should be given an opportunity to practice the skill until they can show their competence. These lesson plans should include the steps in the procedure being demonstrated. This serves as an outline for the instructor.

Workers can be trained on the job to use protective equipment, lift heavy objects, and safely set up ladders. A simple one- or two-page document is all your foremen should need to provide the instruction in an efficient manner.

With a little tweaking, your weekly Toolbox Talks can provide effective instruction. They offer ongoing training, and can easily be designed to meet specific objectives and address OSHA requirements. EC

O’CONNOR is with Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for contractors. Based in Waverly, Pa., he can be reached at 607.624.7159 or


About the Author

Joe O'Connor

Freelance Writer
Joe O'Connor is with Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for contractors. Based in Waverly, Pa., he can be reached at 607.624.7159 or joconnor@inte...

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