The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to make their workers' well-being a top priority. To keep safety awareness current in the workplace, OSHA suggests holding regular toolbox meetings, also called crew talks, to discuss relevant issues and teach workers how to avoid job-related risks, injury and illness.
Foremost, this practice helps lower the chance of employee accidents, but can also improve a company's overall safety culture and cut costs.
To Keep Workers Safe
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 5,147 people died from work-related injuries in 2017. The main reasons to hold regular safety meetings are, of course, to save lives and limit injuries and health risks in the workplace.
To Save Money
Cost is another reason to reduce work-related safety risks. The safer your workplace, the lower your business insurance premiums. But it's not just about the amount you pay your insurance company each year. For instance, think of the costs associated with training a new or temporary worker, if a regular employee needs time to heal or can't return to work.
And What About Morale?
If you ignore your employees' right to a safe workplace, they'll probably talk about the issue to others – on your time and theirs – dragging down company culture and brand image, too. They also might sidestep job dangers that haven't been resolved, such as by omitting steps or duties, affecting the quality of their work. Or, they might report their concerns to the department of labor and quit.
To Cover Pertinent Safety Topics
It doesn't matter if you own a beauty salon, bakery, construction business or any other type of venture, risks exist. Toolbox meeting topics will vary by your employees' duties. For example, if you own a restaurant, your topics would apply to cooks, servers, bartenders, dishwashing staff and so on. Safety awareness, in this scenario, would include reducing the chance of burns while cooking, scalds from the dish-sanitizing machine, cross-contamination, poultry-cooking temperatures, hand washing and slips on wet floors or on something left on the floor, such as a slice of tomato.
You're probably aware of the most obvious risks associated with your industry, but to generate more ideas for your toolbox meetings, explore a sampling of hazard topics:
- Ladder use.
- Heavy lifting.
- High visibility clothing and steel-toe shoes.
- Chemical exposure and knowledge.
- Cuts and burns.
- Food poisoning.
- Hot liquids and steam.
- Tripping hazards.
- Electrical dangers.
- Equipment and machinery use.
- Oxygen deficiency in confined spaces.
- Working at heights.
Think beyond employee safety; it's just as important to keep the public and anyone else who visits your site or establishment safe. The OSHA website offers several free toolbox talk templates as guides for discussing safety awareness with your team.
Toolbox Meeting Procedure
Holding meetings infrequently or far apart and cramming too many details into them can be counterproductive, causing information overload, confusion and even unsafe practices. OSHA suggests holding weekly safety meetings and planning them for the beginning of a shift. You can schedule ahead, preparing for a different safety awareness subject each week or, ideally, discuss the most pressing matter at hand.
- Touch on the same topics in the future or rotate the most important ones for the benefit of new workers, for the fact that everyone needs occasional refreshers and to cover updates to safety precautions or, perhaps, new equipment.
- Hold meetings in relevant locations. For instance, if you plan to talk about forklift safety, hold the meeting in, say, your warehouse where you can demonstrate pre-operational checks and operating in narrow aisles.
Remind staff to report injuries or health concerns to management immediately so that the appropriate paperwork can be processed, if needed.
Allow time for employee questions before concluding each meeting. Encouraging your employees to voice any safety concerns is an excellent way to learn about issues you hadn't considered, and then work to reduce associated risks.
Really, creating a safe workplace isn't just a responsibility, it's a necessity for all involved – and ultimately, it's just the right thing to do.