safety toolbox talks

Toolbox Talks: A Best Practice More Than an OSHA Requirement

Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of supervisors and safety managers begin each week, or even each day, with a safety message prior to the start of work. These safety messages are referred to as toolbox talks, tailgate talks, safety talks, or safety moments at most companies. Whatever you decide call them, they are an integral part of a workplace safety program. For the sake of this blog post we will refer to these safety messages as toolbox talks.

Toolbox talks serve the purpose of delivering a relevant and useful safety message to the employees of a worksite. While many companies understand the importance of delivering toolbox talks, some managers are bound to ask: “Well does OSHA require toolbox talks?”.

toolbox talks

Is There an OSHA Requirement to Hold Daily or Weekly Toolbox Talks?

The short answer is no. OSHA has no specific standard or language that requires a company to hold toolbox talks- whether that is daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. That being said, there is legal jargon in OSHA’s standards that could be used as an argument to do so.

For example in Title 29, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 1926 for Construction, 1926.21(b)(2) states, “The employer shall instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to his work environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury”. While toolbox talks are not officially considered “safety training” by many companies, they can be used as a best practice that supports a company’s safety training program which in turn can help fill in gaps regarding the specific requirements mentioned in the standard above.

Most companies that have robust safety training programs hold in-depth trainings beginning at onboarding new employees, as needed throughout the year, as well as annually to satisfy specific OSHA requirements. That being said, making time for toolbox talks consistently can also help protect a company from the scrutiny of OSHA, but more importantly, effective toolbox talks can help keep their workers safe.

Toolbox Talks as a Best Practice in a Robust Safety Program

Consistently delivering safety messages reinforces to employees that safety is important to the management of that company. Also, dedicating time to share a useful safety message prior to work beginning can lead to a much more educated workforce when it comes to the hazards and safe work practices of the work going on around them. Even just dedicating five minutes a day to deliver a safety message equates to over 20 hours of education per employee in a year’s time! (5 minutes X 5 work days per week X 50 work weeks= 1250 minutes… 1250 minutes/60 minutes per hour= 20.8 hours of safety education)

Listed below are a few guidelines to consider to get the most out of your toolbox talks.

  • Pick a topic that is relevant to your employees and the work that is going on. Do not just talk for the sake of doing so.
  • Have a plan. Shooting from the hip when it comes to delivering effective toolbox talks does not work out for most presenters.
  • Make the message more interesting by including personal stories or past lessons learned relating to the topic.
  • Get the audience to participate by asking for stories or examples of whatever you are discussing.
  • Make sure to document the topic on a sign-in sheet and have everyone present for the toolbox talk sign in. File any materials used as part of the toolbox talk along with the sign-in sheet in case you ever need to refer back to a certain topic that was covered.

Useful Websites to Find Material Online for Your Next Toolbox Talk Topic

What constitutes a worthwhile topic for a company’s next toolbox talk can vary greatly. Not every source listed below will have materials that satisfy your needs on a given day. Browse the sites listed to become aware of what materials are available so that you can refer back to them when needed.

  • OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics. OSHA has a great library of materials separated by alphabetical order ready for you to use.
  • OSHA’s Fatal Facts. OSHA puts out information regarding fatal workplace accidents for other companies to learn from. If the specific work task or industry of the fatalities do not relate to your workforce, lessons can often still be learned from each incident.
  • Atlantic Training’s blog. Right here on this site, Atlantic Training offers visitors plenty of free high quality toolbox talk materials. Visit their library of toolbox talk materials by clicking here.
  • SafetyTalkIdeas.com. I have to be biased and include my blog on this short list. While many of the topics I have written about do not have to do with required OSHA standards in mind, they can serve as part of a larger or unique safety message.

Summary

Toolbox talks are not specifically required by the OSH law, however, they should not need to be for a company to want to consistently incorporate them as part of their safety program. Safety training alone, especially when done strictly on an annual basis, can leave holes in a company’s safety program as well as their workforce’s level of safety education. Evaluate how toolbox talks can benefit your company and take the time to find quality relevant topics to share with your workforce.

About the Author

Jeremy Stiehl is a health and safety officer at an environmental remediation company and he also runs a blog called safetytalkideas.com that provides free resources for safety professionals.