Supervising Toolbox Talks?

Once your health and training course is complete, toolbox talks are essential for continuing your development and sustaining your knowledge.

Toolbox talks are short presentations given in groups which highlight a specific health and safety issue. It is recommended they are given on a monthly basis.

This is our third and final segment about toolbox talks and their important role on the construction site. Before you continue reading, you may want to take a look at part one on the importance of toolbox talks and part two, our guide to delivering effective toolbox talks.

So who is responsible for ensuring that you keep up to date with the latest in health and safety and filter it down to staff through these mini presentations?

Whose job is it to share the load and persuade everyone else to get their hands dirty and deliver the talks?

The supervisor, of course!

So what can you do to allocate the workload and find the right topics?

Create a time table

It's only fair that everyone gets an opportunity to impart their knowledge. Not only because it would be too much work for one person, but also because it would become monotonous for everyone else. Therefore, you should create a rota to let everyone have a turn.

You may want to keep the "team of experts" to a few senior members since apprentices wouldn't have sufficient experience or confidence at first. Plus, those with more years on the job will have witnessed their fair share of toolbox talks so will be familiar with the concept.

Research topics

Use your expertise to devise a list of relevant and timely topics. Keep reading the news and websites such as for the latest happenings in the sector. Ensure the health and safety themes you select are appropriate to the day to day work carried out by your team. Use your own training to inspire talks and speak to your peers about what they would like to discuss with their teams.

Find resources online

Don't feel as though every talk you do must be an original work - There are ready-made presentations online if you know where to look. The best port of call is, of course,, but you can search many more by enlisting the help of Google.

Again, if you speak to your peers about what toolbox talks they are working on with their team, you can come to an arrangement of swapping presentations.

Work with your team

If it's your employee's turn to present, take some time to go over what's needed with them. Explain what a toolbox talk should contain, give suggestions for how they might make it engaging, and check the presentation slides before they deliver to see that everything is factually correct.

Provide templates and help documents

Create some Power Point slides or a set of universal templates for employees to access in the Cloud, for example on Dropbox or Google Drive. This saves a lot of effort formatting slides if IT is not their strong suit. The contents of the presentation are far more important than design, so make life easy: adopt a universal theme so no-one has to worry about aesthetics.

Also consider creating a check list as a guide for the talk so everyone knows what they have to do. This way, they don't have to worry about waiting for a moment of inspiration. Create a list of resources they can access online - websites, downloadable presentations and guides - to give a helping hand in the research process.

Save all talks electronically

Ask the team mates to email you their presentations or documents beforehand. This is for three main reasons:

  • To provide record of the topics covered
  • To let people review the slides later on if they want to refresh their memory or if they were absent for the talk
  • To adapt and reuse at a later date.

Give feedback

Everyone wants a pat on the back or help and advice for improvement. Your job is to ensure the toolbox talk sessions are useful, educational and stay on topic. Feedback is essential, so take five minutes afterwards with the presenter to give constructive feedback. Whatever you have got to say, remember that any form of critique ought to begin and end on a positive note.

Toolbox talks are a necessary part of your staff's development of health and safety awareness. They need to be to be implemented professionally. Don't skimp on your preparation - Your staff may not thank you, but you know you are doing your bit to keep them safe.