Guide to Delivering Effective and Engaging Toolbox Talks

In our last post we discussed why toolbox talks are beneficial to a construction site team. In this article, we explore what makes a talk effective and engaging.

What is a toolbox talk?

  • Toolbox talks are a short discussion or presentation focussing on one particular aspect of health and safety that affects your team. It could relate to forklift trucks, working at height or fire safety, for example.

  • Toolbox talks can be given by anyone and last around 15 minutes.

  • You can create a PowerPoint presentation or summarise your talk on a handout.

  • You can devise your own talk or download a ready-made toolbox talk template from the Internet.

What must a toolbox talk contain?

Toolbox talks are not the same as standardised health and safety training, so it’s up to you what you include, but here is some guidance as to the structure:

  • Start with a short outline of your presentation: a few bullet points of the sections you are going to go over.

  • State your aim for the session e.g. “To be more fire safety aware”. The more specific, the better.

  • Open up with a few statistics relevant to the area you are covering. You can find these on the HSE website. You could mention fatalities or injuries due to negligence in the area you are looking at.

  • Now you have arrived at the meaty part of the session, so here you can show workers what to do, what not to do, what to avoid doing, and very special circumstances where you can do something risky whilst taking precautions.

  • If it’s helpful, include illustrations such as photographs or case studies to really hit home the vital points you want to get across.

  • At the end of the talk, summarise briefly, reiterating the most important elements.

  • Include relevant examples throughout. The more familiar, the more easily your team will retain the facts.

How to make your toolbox talk engaging

There are a few things you can do to turn a 15 minute PowerPoint presentation into an engaging session.

First of all, instead of reading out the statistics, ask your team members to guess first. Consider including a silly prize like a Mars bar for the person closest to the correct answer.

When you come to the advice part of the session, ask people to discuss in groups what they know already. After they have shared their answers, you can go over your slides. The groups will pay more attention because they want to see how much they got right.

At the end of the session, include a short quiz based on a few of the facts in the presentation. Alternatively, throw an object such as a small football round the room. The person holding the object has to repeat a point covered.

Always make sure you leave some time for questions at the end so your team mates can raise any doubts or concerns.

It’s not all about you...

Remember, the toolbox talk is less about fancy presentation slides and more about being prepared with a few relevant examples and pieces of health and safety regulation. These can be jotted down on the back of a receipt if that’s all you have to hand.

The more your talk can generate a discussion, the better it is for everyone in the room. You may find you speak very little once the session gets going, and that’s great. However, don’t get carried away with any old chatting - you’re there to keep it on topic at all times.

Do the best you can

Preparing for toolbox talks is a great chance to indulge in some extra professional development. Speak confidently, have a few extra notes in your hand and embrace the opportunity to show your superiors what you know. You never know, this could lead to something further down the line.