Last edited 08 Sep 2016

Toolbox talk for construction workers

Buildings present a great number of possible risks both in construction and operation. There are many duties placed on those commissioning, designing, constructing and operating buildings to control those risks, most notably by the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (the CDM Regulations).

Amongst other things, the CDM regulations require that construction workers are provided with information about emergency procedures and hazards and are provided with ongoing briefing, supervision and monitoring, perhaps involving toolbox talks.

A toolbox talk is a presentation on a specific site safety issue given to members of the construction workforce. They may be presented as short talks, powerpoint presentations, videos and so on, delivered on site or in the workspace by a senior, experienced and knowledgeable team member. They are intended to provide instructions, information, and continuous training to help prevent accidents, ill-health and environmental damage.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, they ‘…allow you and your workers to explore the risks of specific health and safety issues on your site, and think about ways to deal with them. Toolbox talks should focus on a single topic and be held regularly for greatest impact’ Ref Leadership and worker involvement toolkit, Communication skills for safety briefings and toolbox talks.

Toolbox talks might cover subjects such as:

  • Slips, trips and falls.
  • Work at height, use of ladders and scaffolding.
  • Work near existing services.
  • Roofing.
  • Manual handling.
  • Welding.
  • Electrical hazards.
  • Working in confined spaces.
  • Falling objects.
  • Fire safety.
  • Night working.
  • Traffic safety.
  • Construction plant, equipment and tools.
  • Excavation.
  • Hazardous materials.
  • Eye protection, head protection, hearing protection and so on.

Toolbox talks about common site safety issues are freely available from the Health and Safety Executive and a number of other organisations. However, it is important that they are relevant to the work that is being carried out and that their content and format suit both the style of the presenter and the audience. They should not just involve someone standing up and reading a standard presentation.

Typically toolbox talks last 10 to 15 minutes, may take place once a week, involving small groups of up to 10 people. They should be in an appropriate tone for the audience providing reminders about specific issues or certain safety procedures or protocols and should be part of a wider training and education programme.

They should involve asking questions to verify that the talk has been understood, and to obtain feedback. Attendance should be registered to provide evidence that workers have been given the correct information and instructions.

NB Toolbox talks differ from safety briefings in that a toolbox talk deals with a specific site safety issue whereas safety briefings deal with the range of health and safety hazards and risks that workers may face. See safety briefing for more information.

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