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A toolbox talk on toolbox talks

Toolbox Talk

By Elsabé Steyn on 03 April 2017

A “Toolbox Talk” in South African terms is the industry accepted name used for a short interactive Health and Safety discussion and training session normally held by the Supervisor with his team and conducted at the beginning of a shift.  The Aussies call it a “Safety Huddle” – it reminds me too much of sporting activity of some sort…


The purpose of a toolbox talk

  • To provide an informal  / non-legalised forum to communicate health and safety issues.
  • To help workers to recognise and control hazards in the workplace.
  • To create awareness of safety (an health) in each individual.
  • To create a forum for workers to discuss personal issues and for workers and managers to get to know each other.
  • To demonstrate commitment of employers and workers to health and safety.
  • To discuss tasks at hand.
  • To create an awareness of the hazards associated with the work.
  • To communicate overall project targets and milestones.


Toolbox talk tips

  1. Choose a talk (topic) that is relevant to the site or work area (even some relevant home safety topics can be included).
  2. Prepare beforehand.
  3. Share incidents and other health and safety news within the workplace.
  4. Have the Toolbox Talk where it will be appropriate.
  5. Introduce all subjects clearly.
  6. Use your own words.
  7. Connect key points that the team are familiar with.
  8. Facts support a good message.
  9. Make use of props if possible.
  10. Pinpoint hazards – and show pictures of how this can harm them if you have some.
  11. Use humour (but not inappropriately).
  12. Ask for questions.
  13. Answer them clearly.
  14. Ask workers to demonstrate what they have learned.
  15. Ask for feedback from the workers.
  16. Give feedback on previous issues.
  17. Ask different persons to present next time – some of the workers or somebody from management for a change.
  18. Keep record of each talk – date, topic, attendees and their signatures, presenter’s name.
  19. Limit it to 15 min max.


Some advice

Start with once a week if Toolbox Talks are a new thing you want to implement – less is more and you want to keep on adding value so avoid topics that are becoming too repetitive like safe driving behaviour!  In an environment where things are changing daily it is the norm to do Toolbox Talks daily.   Just as long as you keep on “Toolbox Talking” (or Huddling – just don’t pull a hamstring please).



About the Author

Elsabé Steyn, Health and Safety Manager at Aurecon has more than 28 years' experience in the field of occupational health and safety. Her expertise includes the design, implementation and monitoring, on various levels, of OHS management systems. Elsabe is currently working at a large engineering consultancy as H&S Manager for their major and capital projects.  Her experience has been obtained mainly in the construction, mining, heavy, food, manufacturing, transportation and civil infrastructure industries.


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