Toolbox talks are safety lectures aimed at the construction trade. The lectures are intended to educate workers about creating and maintaining safer work conditions, and attendance is mandatory in many companies. In addition to the construction industry, mining companies and heavy manufacturers also hold these talks. Many companies provide them in modular form, so that a safety educator has a curriculum readily available.
There are several facets to successful and useful toolbox talks. As a general rule, the talks are short, and they are kept interesting and relevant. Some workplaces hold brief lectures once a week, continuously educating their employees, while others have longer safety seminars at less frequent intervals. The goal is to empower employees so that they can recognize, avoid, report, and correct safety hazards.
Learning to recognize safety hazards is an important part of the curriculum. Workers are educated about all aspects of the industry they work on, so that they can identify problems with their work sites. Usually, workers are invited to tell stories about injuries they have witnessed or heard about, so that they can learn from each other as well as the lecture. Electrical safety, proper handling of equipment, and fall safety are common safety hazards that are covered.
Workers are also taught about how to correct safety hazards. Most job sites have a safety officer, and employees are told to report hazards to this person. Once the officer has evaluated the hazard, actions can be taken to correct it. Workers are also encouraged to use common sense. For example, if a hazard is obviously immediately life threatening, workers should evacuate the area or take steps to correct it, rather than going through the safety officer.
Avoiding potentially hazardous situations is included in toolbox talks as well. For example, workers are taught to tie in when working in high spaces, shown how to use a respirator in conditions with large particulate loads, and educated about the impact of environmental conditions, such as extreme heat or cold, on safety. Learning to avoid the creation of unsafe conditions is also important, and workers learn how to work and move safely around a job site.
Some workplaces also include information about worker rights in the talks. These rights include legal protections for workers who report unsafe working conditions to government organizations and the right to disability compensation for workers who are injured on the job. The primary focus, however, is safety. Most employers want their employees to be healthy and safe for a number of reasons, both pragmatic and empathetic.