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What is a Toolbox Talk? (A 2-Part Safety Meeting)

Once upon a time, I was the co-owner / operator of a small family roofing company. We cared about the safety of our guys, many of them were friends and relatives, and we enforced safety practices on our job sites, but we didn’t have formal safety meetings, and we definitely didn’t document anything safety related.

Then, one cool dewy morning, our foreman climbed up a steep cedar roof to install an anchor so that he and the rest of the crew could safely tie off. But he never made it to the peak. He slipped and fell two stories, landing on his back in the asphalt driveway.

It was a miracle that he didn’t die. He ended up with a broken back and a very long and painful road to recovery.

Meanwhile, our company was suddenly thrust into a major investigation by what felt like every government agency around. Then there were the lawyers. So. Many. Lawyers.

We were asked to produce our written Safety Policy and Program. We had nothing.

We were asked to produce safety meetings documenting our foreman’s training. Again, nothing.

What followed was a very quick learning curve of what we were obligated to be doing for safety, and at the top of that list was a weekly Toolbox Talk.

What is a Toolbox Talk?

A toolbox talk (also known as a Safety Meeting or TBT) is a two-part process that provides your workers with training and reduces your companies liability if there is ever an incident. The topics are different each week and involve tasks the workers complete regularly or equipment / tools they use.

Some examples of topics may be: setting up ladders, floor and roof openings, hard hats, lifting techniques, nail guns, propane, etc.

2 Components of a Toolbox Talk:

 

1. The Talk

  • The safety talk itself is 2-3 paragraphs of safety information about a specific topic, written by a vetted safety provider
  • The talk is usually completed onsite where it is most relevant to the worker, near the equipment / tools (hence the name toolbox talk)
  • The best TBT’s include pictures, a demonstration, and a Spanish translation
  • You can find many TBT’s for free online and from professional trade associations

2. The Record

  • If you don’t record the fact that the talk happened, in the eyes of the law and OSHA, it never did.
  • Record the date, location, and topic of the TBT
  • Have every member that attended (including yourself) sign and print their name on the record
  • Attach the talk (including the Spanish version) to the record and save it at the office for at least 7 years

My Guys Will Never Participate in a Toolbox Talk

That’s what I thought too. And I wasn’t wrong. Construction workers hate paperwork. Every minute they spend on paperwork is a minute they aren’t making money.

I know from experience that you will have to hound them to host safety meetings and get the records back to you.

When they do hand them in, they are wrinkled, ripped, and covered with coffee stains from being stuffed between the seats of the truck for a week. You’ll smooth out the paper only to find there is something missing or you can’t read someone’s chicken scratch of a signature. You then have to spend time chasing them down, and every minute you spend doing that is a minute you aren’t making money.

So What’s the Solution?

You need to start doing toolbox talks right away. They are the base for every safety program ever designed and trust me when I say, you do not want to be caught empty handed. My company faced fines, lawsuits and even an increase in our insurance rates, never mind the fact that our best foreman was out of commission.

Thanks to the National Roofing Contractors Association, we have provided you with your first toolbox talk on ladder safety so you can help avoid the most common fatality in construction, a fall. With it, you will find a form we built for you to record the safety meeting every week. This way you can get started today. Then all you need to do is source the information for your talk each week, record it and save it. Or, you can sign up for a FREE Harness account and we will do the leg work for you.

  • The Harness Safety App provides you with your own library of safety talks, with photos, demonstrations and Spanish translations, available on any device
  • Harness captures all the data you are legally required to track using required fields, so nothing is forgotten and everything is legible
  • Harness saves the talk immediately, making it easy to store and find later
  • Most importantly, Harness is quick and EASY TO USE, which increases the chances that your crews will actually do it

Want to get started now? Download our Free Toolbox Talk Form below.
Want to skip paper and go right to the app? Book a demo here.

Already mastered the TBT? Try out a Job Site Hazard Assessment.

By Sue Drummond

Sue Drummond knows that learning new technology can be intimidating and overwhelming sometimes. That's exactly why her role at Harness Software is to teach, guide and customize that fear away. Together with our clients, she sets project priorities, exchanges resources and shares best practices, all in an effort to achieve happier and healthier employees and safer job sites.