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How to Deliver Safety Toolbox Talks: 5 Alternatives to Email

Working conditions at the construction site are very challenging, with the heat and dust being a major factor in the difficulties for the workers. Although rain and wind also create not the most favorable atmosphere for work. Under such circumstances, the last thing you want to do is listen to the information that the foreman is trying to convey, shouting over the sounds of the tools — Did he say something about safety?

As you may already know, safety toolbox talks are a fairly common method of enhancing safety training. Sorry to say, excellent communication is a rare skill, and many managers, supervisors, and other safety talkers feel out of place when they are required to conduct a safety toolbox meeting. The reason why is clear: despite its apparent simplicity, a well-run toolbox talk requires good public speaking, drafting, and planning skills. 

Wait, there’s one more important thing: a truly well-run toolbox talk requires a good way of delivering. And if the first thing that comes to your mind is emailing your workers, we have to disappoint you, e-mail is not the best tool for this. 

Let’s figure out why that is, and together we’ll find an alternative (better) solution.

Why Email Doesn’t Work

Campaign Monitor provides facts that an average worker 121 receives emails daily. It’s easy to see why. Emails are simple, fast, and can be sent from almost anywhere, at any time, and by a variety of tools, whether it’s a personal computer, laptop, or mobile device.  

That is, an email is a great tool for dealing with personal or work issues, or it’s still perfect for sending out advertising campaigns. And for the same reason, email is not a great tool for having toolbox talks. 

Emails are a security risk: for all the convenience of email, it doesn’t provide much security. No one is immune to these old tricks of cybercriminals who by getting tight access could set up a system allowing them to forward a copy of any email sent.

It’s getting crowded: even though spam filters are getting better, almost half of all emails, which is 45%, are spam. Let alone a bulk of automated messages people get after signing up for a new service.

Not all team members can attend: 

You want to bring the whole team together to share ideas and update everyone on progress. But if everyone can’t attend the meeting, especially key team members, you can send a group email.  And then start watching the number of unread emails in your inbox grow. It’s a good idea to back up all the documents with signatures. And if one employee forgets to attach a file? Or the email gets caught in spam. There could be many scenarios. 

Alternative Ways to Deliver Toolbox Talks

There are several common formats for conducting toolbox talks. Some of them are quicker to get started than others, some do the hard work for you, and some require little preparation.

  • Informal chat

Informal chats allow you to bring up a health and safety topic or subject with a group or even an individual worker. This is one of the easiest ways to start a conversation with a toolbox because it doesn’t require much preparation. 

Pros: you can focus on something they are currently doing or about to do.

Cons: having an effective conversation can be time consuming if you have many different chats with different groups or individuals, or cover different topics with each worker.

  • Safety briefing

A safety briefing is a way to have a toolbox talk in a more formal format. You can set up this briefing when everyone checks in at the site, during morning break, at a weekly meeting, or at some other time when most of the team is together.

Pros: they are regular, organized, and recorded. What’s more, regular safety briefings become part of the work routine, which can mean more active participation from the team –  especially, if you cover the right content and are well prepared.

Cons: it can be tempting to rush through a safety briefing since it usually consists of several points. Plus, a single list of dos and don’ts on an issue can be boring, yet it takes lots of time to prepare an interesting presentation that covers all the important points.

  • Handouts

Handouts are always in handy. You have a ready-to-use document, which fully covers the topic you want to discuss. It also allows your team to pass their eyes through the text or keep it as a helpful reminder while you will be talking.

Pros: they are clear and easy to understand. What’s more, you do not need to memorize text by heart: the main questions to discuss, bullet points, and things to mention are always in front of you and in the hands of your team.

Cons: you cannot use handouts alone. You need to discuss the content of the talk with your team and check out their understanding. 

  • Automated workflows app

Using an app for running toolbox talks opens up new opportunities for work. For example, Fluix allows you to fully automate the process: from the moment the daily toolbox talk templates are distributed from the cloud storage to the team members, to the point the toolbox talk forms are filled out and sent back, in time and duly signed. In addition, you can easily add team members participating in the talk, control access to the documents and actions on them, as well as set specific tasks with deadlines and monitor their status.

Pros: you can track how your toolbox talks are designed, organized, delivered, and processed. It’s also more secure, so your company data is always in a safe place. 

Cons: you need to buy a tool and devices for your team. 

  • Video

Videos are a widespread format for toolbox talks because they can include text, images, and sounds. Also, they can be re-watched anytime. 

Pros: you are given a variety of options to present. You can shoot a video of you presenting a talk, a special guest, or a video of the subject itself, or create an animation. 

Cons: videos do take time and equipment to make them. You also need money to make them well. 

Advice from Practice: How to Choose Toolbox Talk Software

Working a bird’s-eye view or deep underground by the tune of construction machinery only sounds poetic. In fact, the construction industry is a very dangerous industry. 

Construction firms and general contractors should strive to ensure that safety practices are followed and inform their teams.

So that this informal group discussion about safety issues related to the specific job at hand doesn’t feel like a lunchtime conversation over a cigarette or a sandwich, it’s worth paying attention to organizing the process. It’s much easier to work with a specific tool — so, what should you look for when choosing an app for your team? Here’s your list of must-have features:

  • Workflow for toolbox talks distribution and collecting filled out forms
  • Secure cloud storage or integration with the storage your organization uses 
  • Offline data capture
  • eSignature to verify attendance and compliance
  • Voice-to-text for recording discussion topics and notes

With the digital toolbox talk software, you can foster a culture of safety on job sites. By regularly discussing safety issues, construction companies can make safety part of the normal ritual on construction sites. Managers can use the app to prepare conversations in advance by uploading all relevant information to forms, adding important videos and checklists on current company topics.

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