Getting the most out of the IUOE Toolbox Talks

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IUOE National Training Fund

Summary Statement

Toolbox talks have been the main tool for communicating safety information on construction jobs for decades. Unfortunately, there has been little research on what makes for effective toolbox talks. The IUOE National Training Fund worked with OSHA and NIOSH to make sure their series of 24 Focus Four toolbox talks were based on the best recommendations for effective design. These toolbox talks accompany an entire package of training materials, but can be used alone. This guide points out the key features of these toolbox talks and how best to deliver them.
2007

Why were these talks developed?

Toolbox talks have been the main tool for communicating safety information on construction jobs for decades. Unfortunately, there has been almost no research on what makes for effective toolbox talks. The IUOE National Training Fund has worked with OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Lippy Group, LLC to make sure these Focus Four toolbox talks are based on the latest fi ndings on the most effective design and tailored to the hazards operating engineers face daily. These toolbox talks accompany an entire package of training materials, but can be used alone. The way these are delivered is as important as how well they are designed.

What did NIOSH find out?

  • Just handing out factsheets and toolbox talks to workers doesn’t work. Providing copies after toolbox talks doesn’t make much of an impact either.
  • Using case studies (real life stories of accidents that ended in fatality or injury) in toolbox talks is effective.
  • When toolbox talks containing case studies were accompanied by discussion questions to encourage group participation, they were more effective. Consequently, getting the workers to participate in the discussion about the case study is important. It’s not enough to tell the story, it is better to have the workers engage in problem solving that analyzes why the accident occurred and how it could have been prevented. Active learning is always better than passive.

How should you deliver these toolbox talks?

  1. Choose a topic that is related to work going on at the site.
  2. Hold the meeting on the job, preferably where everyone can sit and relax.
  3. Hold the meeting at the beginning of a shift or after a break. Folks are too tired at the end of a shift to carefully listen and they want to get home.
  4. Read the toolbox talk sheet on the topic prior to conducting the talk.
  5. Start at the top of the form and work right through to the end, which should take around 10 to 15 minutes. Guidance is provided in blue print to help you with each section.
  6. Use the questions provided to generate discussions. Always allow time for the crew to respond to your questions before you provide an answer. Some suggested responses are written in italics.
  7. Review the case study and emphasize that this was a real incident. Ask the crew for a case study before you review the one provided, however.
  8. Always end with a discussion of the particular worksite where you are conducting the talk. Tie the talk as closely to hazards on the site as possible and encourage the crew to constantly look for and immediately correct hazards. They should also know how to report any problems that can’t be immediately corrected.
  9. Provide copies to each person, if you like, but NIOSH has not found that to be particularly effective.
  10. Encourage workers to do similar talks on their sites and provide them with the IUOE phone number for ordering in bulk.
  11. Have everyone sign the back of the form to indicate they attended this session and point out it is a pledge to look out for the health and safety of everyone on the site.

What are the key features of these toolbox talks?

Graphic pointing out six key features of the Focus Four Toolbox Talks