Business Growth

Tips For An Effective Toolbox Meeting with Topics and Examples

Toolbox talks, you've probably sat through a million of them if you're a seasoned tradie. But maybe now it's your turn to run one and be the person standing in front of the crowd rather than sitting amongst your co-workers, bleary eyed on a Monday morning.

We can't help you with the public speaking part, but we can show you how to run a great Toolbox Talk. Read on as we discuss everything you need to know before you face the crowd.

If you're completely new to Toolbox Talks though, we'll run through a brief description below before we get into the good stuff.

What is a Toolbox Meeting?

A toolbox meeting, also known as a tool box talk, is a short, informal safety meeting with your entire team to cover policies and guidelines relevant to the job and answer questions or concerns team members have. They’re done when everyone is available, preferably at the start of the workday, when everyone is present and (usually) fresh.

They’re vital refreshers for the team and a great way to contribute to a positive workplace culture.

Why run Toolbox Meetings?

Very few people relish any kind of meeting. Meetings are essential in a workplace, but formal meetings can come across as a slog to be pushed through rather than a time to improve work and team trust.

When formal meetings cover many topics, such as safety guidelines and workplace policies, it can be hard for every team member to absorb all the important information. Long meetings mean people tune out or miss things relevant to their job. When it comes to health and safety, you want your team to be as up to date as possible and always have workplace safety at the front of their mind, whatever the job.

A regular toolbox meeting not only ensures your team is up to date on health and safety issues and procedures but also allows your team to bring up any issues they’ve noticed or worries they have. 

Tips for an Effective Toolbox Meeting

When you’re getting everyone together for a meeting, you want it to be effective! You’ll need to pick your topic and plan for it, so you want everyone to be engaged, even on a Monday morning.

Here are some tips for planning and running a toolbox meeting that is helpful and effective.

Tip 1: Have a good schedule!

You want your toolbox meeting to be run at a time when the majority or all of the team is present and fresh. This is usually at the start of the day or shift, depending on when everyone starts. It’s also good to run a toolbox meeting once a week at the same time so everyone can settle the logistics and be there on time to attend.

Tip 2: Plan your meeting

There doesn’t need to be excessive detail, but depending on the topic, you can have a graphic or picture that illustrates the topic. You can also include handouts and work sheets for people to follow along with.

Tip 3: Stay on target and highlight key points

Even if everything else about the toolbox meetings leaves their heads while focusing on their work, have the key issue stick there.

Tip 4: Open the meeting up to questions, suggestions and concerns

A team member might have something to add or bring up another safety hazard that has been a problem. 

Tip 5: End every Toolbox Meeting with a conversation

This one is pretty much self explanatory. If everyone feels involved, it will be an effective toolbox meeting.

Tip 6: Keep meeting minutes/notes

That way, you can keep track of recent topics, questions and issues that have been raised by the team and notes of details covered in case anyone was absent or wants a refresher.

AroFlo’s Safety Software for Tradies covers everything you need to keep up to date with safety compliance, including scheduling toolbox talks and procedures so you’re always ready to go.

Toolbox Meeting Topics

We’ve put together a list of examples of toolbox meetings. Any of these could be relevant to your workplace, but it’s best to plan a toolbox meeting around recent problems or, alternatively, important policies that haven’t been covered in a while.

As a rule of thumb, however, if it’s a safety issue, it can be a toolbox meeting topic!

Emergency Response/First Aid

No matter the worksite, this is a relevant toolbox meeting topic to bring up occasionally. It’s also a good refresher on the fact that emergencies can happen at any time, and the team will feel more confident dealing with a potential situation having been refreshed on the topic.

- Remind everyone of the health and safety equipment on site— for example, first aid kits, extinguishers, defibrillators, eye wash stations etc.

- First Aid: Qualified first aiders on site, encouraging first aid certification for team members

- What to do if there is an emergency. For example: Call triple zero, check the area for dangers, first aid response, retrieve necessary equipment, alert team and supervisor etc.

- Scenario: you can use a team member as an example, make a relevant scenario and ask questions about what other team members should do in that situation.

Sun Safety

This kind of toolbox meeting topic is important when the team will be spending some or all of their time outside.

- Dangers of sun exposure: sunburn, dehydration, heatstroke, cancer, etc.

- Warning signs of heatstroke/dehydration/skin cancers

- UV: warning levels and what to do at each level, even on cloudy days

- What to do if a team member is suffering from health problems related to sun exposure

- Slip, Slop, Slap: a way to end the meeting with a friendly reminder that sun safety is for everyone.

Hazardous Chemicals

Workplaces that use any chemicals considered dangerous/hazardous should have regular refreshers.

- Chemical Manifest/Documentation of chemicals onsite.

- Using appropriate PPE

- Identifying hazardous chemicals and their designations

- What to do in the event of exposure or leak

Noise Exposure

This is an important one for worksites with loud machinery and tools.

- Safety requirements for both team members and others that may be affected

- Dangers of noise/prolonged noise exposure

- When to use PPE/Using appropriate PPE and how to maintain it

- Reporting excessive noise or defects

- What to do if hearing loss is suspected/short-term vs long-term hearing loss

Confined Spaces

Sometimes tradies must work in confined spaces, which can be very dangerous. If work involves confined spaces, this is a necessary topic. It’s good to have the dot points specific to the spaces your team will be working in.

- The procedures of working in confined spaces

- The dangers of confined spaces: gases, entering and exiting,

- The safety checks and approval before entering a confined space

- Proper documentation

Mental Health and Wellbeing

This is relevant for every workplace. Tradies might not take this topic seriously at first, but even bringing up the topic can open it up for discussion and awareness. Mental health is a large factor in employee productivity, and you want your team to be proactive about their health as well as feel supported.

- Why mental health is important and the prevalence of mental illnesses

- Work-related stress, anxiety and depression

- How to identify signs of burnout

- Tips on better habits to support health

- Where team members can find mental health support, for example, an EAP or wellness program

Having an Employee Assistance Program, a.k.a an EAP, can provide employees with private support. For more info, read AroFlo’s employee wellness guide, which covers everything you need to know about EAPs and why your business should have one.

See every Toolbox Meeting as an Opportunity

A toolbox meeting is a great way to connect with your team, learn of any problems or concerns they may have about their job or the workplace and foster closer trust between team members.

For some employees, toolbox meetings could come across as ‘just another meeting’, but showing that you’re invested in your team’s health and safety on the job has benefits that reach beyond OH&S.

When you run a toolbox meeting and consider your employee’s concerns, you’re letting the team know that while the work is important, their health and safety are the ultimate priority.

When the team knows you’ve got their back and want them to work efficiently and safely, there will be greater team loyalty and teamwork. Employees that feel safe in their workplace with a supervisor that considers their needs will be happier and more productive. They’ll want to contribute to the team and help out!

As Lifestyle Tradie’s Good Company Culture blog puts it: People don’t quit a job. They quit a boss. Toolbox meetings are just one of the ways you can foster positive company culture.

With a short timeslot on a Monday morning, you can use a regular toolbox meeting to increase your team's safety awareness, trust, and productivity.

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