Why Toolbox Talks Are So Important

This is the first in a series of three articles which covers toolbox talks.

If you have studied the SSSTS qualification from CITB, you will be familiar with the concept, and will have conducted your own as part of the assessment. You will also have been given the CITB Toolbox Talks publication to take away with you - keep it safe as it's a valuable resource to refer back to.

Construction toolbox talks are not simply a tick box exercise for examiners, however. They have a vital place in the ongoing education and professional development of construction team workers.

What is a toolbox talk?

A toolbox talk is a small presentation going over a specific part of health and safety to reacquaint your team with essential best practices. Toolbox talk topics are focused on the health and safety aspects that are relevant to a specific job, making it vital that everyone working on the current project participates.

During such a presentation, you could make a few slides (great visual aids, which you can share afterwards), include noteworthy statistics to hammer home why you need to pay attention, and provide actionable steps for keeping safe.

Preparing a presentation may not be at the top of your list of priorities, especially with tight project deadlines, but you don’t have to go to the effort of creating your own.

There are resources out there for you to use, such as toolbox talk templates and toolbox talk examples to work from, and it’s a good idea to share the load around so everyone gets the benefit of presenting without it being left up to one person.

So, why are toolbox talks so important?

Refresh your knowledge on a regular basis

Think about it. You’ve earned your health and safety qualification, you’ve bagged your shiny certificate. It’s now hanging pride of place on your bathroom wall. That makes you an expert, now, doesn’t it? Maybe you think you can teach the course yourself.

But let’s be honest for a minute. Passing a qualification and knowing how to practically implement your new knowledge in the real world are two different things.

What’s more, there’s a lot of information to take in on courses. How do you retain all of that? The truth is that unless you are one of those lucky people with a photographic memory, you will need to revisit individual aspects lots of times before it stays with you permanently.

Keep up to date with latest best practice

Like it or not, things change. What phone did you have five years ago? We’re willing to bet you can do a lot more with your new phone now that was inconceivable to you back then. If you took a qualification five years ago, your knowledge is bound to be out of date in some way or faded into the mists of time.

Regular toolbox talks keep your knowledge up to date so you always bring your A-game to work.

Learn by teaching

When you’re trying to retain knowledge or are grappling with something new, one of the best ways to help it make sense to you is to explain the concept to someone else. Because you have the challenge of having to clarify it, you will need to work that bit harder to break it down and simplify the instructions. Ultimately, you end up teaching yourself.

Because different people are being given the chance to present, it makes it that bit more interesting than listening to the boss droning on as usual, so information is more likely to stick.

Staying on the same page

If you are learning and refreshing your health and safety knowledge as a unit, you will develop a universal understanding of the health and safety area being revised. There is no room for a difference of opinion on a matter. You are all exposed to the same advice and you stick to it as a team. It’s essential in the event of an emergency that everyone follows the same protocol rather than doing their own thing.

The chance to report back and ask questions

Toolbox talks let you come together as a team and focus on health and safety as a topic. This is also a great forum to ask questions and report back on any incidents encountered during work. If you have doubts, here is your chance to resolve them as a team.

Toolbox talks benefit everyone as the whole team can learn and engage. You can see it as a chore or you can welcome it as a way to impress those around you. You never know, it could even lead to a better job in the company, so give it your best shot.