I’ve got master’s degree in safety management and years of HSEQ experience from the field in different companies. I wish it matters when I start a discussion about safety with a random group of people. Unfortunately, in a short dialogue the background and possible knowledge usually doesn’t count. If you don’t believe me, just try to begin a chat by telling about your professional experience and fancy degrees – a great ice-breaker, isn’t it. Typical safety toolbox talk lasts around 5-10 min which means you got to be interesting, clear and speak short.
If you wish to have any kind of an impact in 5-10 min, think well in advance what you want to accomplish. Choose 1 or 2 goals that you want to bring up and stick to them. It’s better to get one thing stick in than 10 things slipping out of the mind.
Your goal can be something like:
- Strengthen a positive feeling about safety
- Correct an issue that is wrong and give positive feedback from another issue that is done right
- Remind about one topical HSEQ issue such as risk taking, ergonomics or working at heights
- Demonstrate leadership commitment to safety
- Give positive feedback from the team’s safety performance
- Dig up at least one new HSEQ initiative
- Introduce or re-enforce a good practice such as incident reporting
Direct the discussion to address those 1 or 2 personal goals and leave time for others to talk, preferably majority of the time. Keep in mind that, even if you are a guru of safety it doesn’t make you a guru at operative work at blue collar level.
I don’t feel comfortable listing prepared openers for you. If some kind of list helps you, then create one by any means. I believe being polite and interested in the other person and their work is the foundation of a good safety toolbox talk. You can start by asking their names and the current work at hand. Introduce yourself and tell a bit about safety talks and why safety is important in our organization. Try to find any positive things from their behavior or working environment and comment that to minimize possible tension.
It’s important to get others to tell their thoughts. Otherwise, it’s difficult to grab their attention and to demonstrate your sincere intentions and willingness improve things together.
3 Safety Talk
After getting the conversation flowing, you need to keep the focus. Discussing about last weekend can be much more fun but in order to get results, stay in the topic. Nevertheless, the discussion itself can and should be very informal.
Try to calibrate the conversation flow to point out HSEQ related issues that concern people. Good way to dig into an interesting topic is to use simple accident investigation models like ‘5 Whys’? The conversation might be addressing a very complex problem that you are unable to solve at that point. Be prepared to delegate issues to responsible persons.
4 Ending and actions
Ending the talk in a positive way can be tricky. You want to show commitment and interest but you only have a couple of minutes to use. The most important thing is to thank participants for their time. Don’t promise something that you can’t deliver. Instead, tell them that you will notify the responsibly parties about the raised issues and remind them about your organization’s procedures on how to report HSEQ issues into your organization’s information system.
5 Record and follow-up
Record the delivered safety toolbox talk date, theme, participants and possible pictures. If you have a mobile HSEQ app, record instantly to move things forward before you forget the taken points. Assign people from your organization to take actions if needed.
If you are a safety manager in an organization, you should keep track of all safety toolbox talks in your organization. Toolbox talks are a great way to show management commitment and strengthen safety culture. In the long run people will either be motivated to or discouraged with safety toolbox talks. With these steps and proper follow-ups you’ll be on the motivational track for sure.