Toolbox Talk Topics

Learn about different top toolbox talk topics and help promote a culture of safety in your construction site

What is a Toolbox Talk?

Toolbox talks are quick, simple, and easy to understand safety discussions conducted before shift starts at the jobsite. Also known as safety briefings, pre-start, or take 5 safety talks, a toolbox talk is ideally conversational in tone and takes about 5-10 minutes of engaging workers to discuss their awareness of health and safety risks associated with their tasks. An effective toolbox talk helps promote a culture of safety in the workplace and facilitates a sharing of knowledge and safety best practices among workers.

The Importance of Toolbox Talks

Having short but frequent Toolbox Talks can significantly reduce workplace incidents. A recent report found that companies that conduct Toolbox Talks daily had a 64% reduction in total incident rates than those that conducted their Toolbox Talk meetings on a monthly basis.

In addition to identifying immediate hazards for the day, an effective Toolbox Talk can:

  1. Grow a positive safety culture within an organization.
  2. Keep all workers alert.
  3. Improve team communication and productivity.
  4. Serve as a reminder of workers’ duties and responsibilities.
  5. Function as an updated record of hazards and action plan

The Purpose of Toolbox Talks

A toolbox talk, sometimes also referred to as tool box talk or tailgate safety meeting—is an industry best practice for reinforcing safety culture as it emphasizes the importance of safety in small, but consistent increments. Toolbox safety meetings are meant to supplement, not replace safety training and education as required by safety regulations in the United States:

“The employer shall instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to his work environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury.”

However, the state of California obligates supervisory employees to conduct “toolbox” or “tailgate” safety meetings, or equivalent, with their crews at least every 10 working days to emphasize safety. More than just a matter for compliance, performing 5-minute toolbox talks daily can significantly improve safety outcomes, champion worker health, and elevate the quality of work.

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What are Toolbox Talk Topics?

Toolbox talk topics are safety agendas that should be discussed with workers prior to commencing work. It varies depending on the workers’ needs for the current or upcoming activities that would help expand their awareness of health and safety risks associated with their tasks. A toolbox talk topic should be short, efficient, and easy to comprehend.

Toolbox Talk Example

There are a variety of safety toolbox talk examples that can be discussed to workers. Here is a basic example of a toolbox talk specifically for people working in confined spaces.

Topic: Working in Confined Spaces

Site: Pandemonium Works, Hawkins City, Indiana

Involved Team: Harvey Scratch, Roz Spellman, Nick Morningstar, Cerberus Kinkle

Supervisor: Archie Micks

Conducted on: September 7, 2020

What is a Confined Space?

A confined space can be any area that is sufficiently large to enter and perform jobs. It is has a limited entrance and egress points and not built for any type of occupancy. 

What might happen if working in confined spaces was not performed properly?

  1. Oxygen deficiency or asphyxiation due to the harmful environment inside the confined spaces.
  2. Exposure to deadly gases and other organisms.
  3. Loss of coordination.
  4. Heatstroke
  5. Death

Safety reminders when working in confined spaces:

  1. Identify all hazards present before entering the confined space.
  2. Conduct atmosphere tests.
  3. Install proper ventilation systems.
  4. Fortify communication amongst co-workers.
  5. Ensure that personal protective equipment is in good condition.

Signatures: (assuming all people involved have confirmed and signed) 

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Toolbox Talk Topics for Safety Meetings

Finding relevant toolbox meeting topics to discuss for your toolbox talk can be challenging. Discussion points at toolbox meetings should be topical and relevant to current or upcoming activities in the workplace. Topical items for discussion can be identified by asking workers for input, changes in the plant or work process or work environment, or in response to accidents/ incidents in the workplace. A general toolbox talk template is a helpful tool to record general safety discussions.

For regular work-specific hazards, it is helpful to focus on the right topic. Here are our top 16 safety talk topics you can use for your next toolbox meeting. Select the toolbox talk topic and feel free to use the template according to the job that your team is working on:

Construction Toolbox Talk

Toolbox Talk Topic: Construction toolbox talk
Construction workers are exposed to different health and safety hazards on site that, if not properly mitigated, may cause incidents, injuries, or fatalities. Use this construction toolbox talk template to walk-through some of the most common fatal four in the construction industry. Discuss top causes of falls, electrocution, struck by objects, and caught between objects and share preventive tips on how to avoid these common incidents.

Slips Trips and Falls Toolbox Talk

Toolbox Talk Topic: Slips Trips and Falls Toolbox Talk
Slips, Trips, and Falls are the common causes of accidents in the workplace and often the most overlooked hazard. Discuss with your team the most common types of slip injuries and have them point out any hazards on the jobsite. Get your team to suggest methods to prevent these measures. Download this Toolbox Talk focused on slips trips and falls you can use on your jobsite.

Electrical Safety Toolbox Talk

Toolbox Talk Topic: Electrical Safety Toolbox Talk

Electrocutions account for one of the most common injuries seen on construction sites. Discussing this topic during your toolbox talk help remind every worker about the hazards of electricity and the preventive measures when getting in contact with it. Remind your team of the Do’s and Don’ts of electrical safety, discuss lock out tag out procedures, list all major hazards, and ask the team to identify any pre-shift or pre-start issues. Use this electrical safety toolbox talk template to record your discussions.

PPE Safety Toolbox Talk

Toolbox Talk Topic: PPE Safety Toolbox Talk

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is used to reduce employees’ exposure to hazards. Observe hand safety by discussing the relevance of PPE to keep them safe prior to commencing work. A toolbox talk can be used to inform employees about the guidelines and conditions of PPE and record faulty equipment for repair or replacement. Download this PPE toolbox checklist.

Working at Heights Toolbox Talk

Toolbox Talk Topic: Working at heights toolbox talk

It is always best to avoid working at heights. But when necessary, all employees must fully understand hazards and the preventive measures before commencing work. During your toolbox talk, it is important for employees to discuss all appropriate safety measures in place including fall protection equipment and fall hazards. Use this working at heights toolbox talk template to discuss this topic before commencing work at heights.

Confined Space Safety Toolbox Talk

Toolbox Talk Topic: Confined Space Safety Toolbox Talk

Working in a confined space exposes workers to various deadly gases as well as oxygen deficiency. Only highly trained personnel should enter a confined space workplace. During your Toolbox Talk, discuss all hazards present for the particular confined space, agree as a team what to do during ordinary work as well as in the event of an incident. Use a confined space toolbox checklist to remind your team to conduct their talks daily and record key action points.

Accident Reporting Toolbox Talk

Toolbox Talk Topic: Accident reporting toolbox talk

Employees have the first and primary responsibility in accident reporting. Should you get involved with any injury, first aid, and incident or near miss, you are expected to report directly to your supervisor or safety department immediately. During your toolbox talk, empower your employees to report incidents effectively by answering the following questions: “What do I report?”, “Who do I report it to?”, “When do I report?”. Use an accident and incident reporting checklist to assist your employees in proper documentation of accidents in the workplace.

Asbestos Awareness Toolbox Talk

Toolbox Talk Topic: asbestos inspection

Asbestos known as a hidden killer can put both employees and businesses at risk. This topic is very important, especially in the construction industry. Create awareness in asbestos by using this as a topic for toolbox talks. During your toolbox talk, discuss different types of asbestos-containing materials that they may come in contact with. Use an asbestos risk assessment checklist to identify the presence of asbestos in the workplace.

COSHH Toolbox Talk

Toolbox Talk Topic: COSSH for safety against hazardous substances such as oil or gas
Workplaces have the potential to produce hazardous substances, whether that be from cleaning chemicals to dust and gases. Make your team aware of these hazardous substances to prevent negative health risks. During your toolbox talk, have a discussion on areas of their tasks that involves hazardous substances, how these can harm them, and how you can all reduce the risks of harm occurring. Use a COSHH Assessment tool to prevent injuries or any adverse health effects from harmful chemicals.

Excavation Toolbox Talk

Toolbox Talk Topic: excavation safety in construction sites
Excavation sites are open to many potential accidents. Industries involved in building sites should ensure worker safety by using this as a topic in their toolbox talks. During your team’s toolbox talk, it would be a good idea to go through the general requirements for excavation safety. Use an excavation safety checklist to perform worksite and equipment inspections and ensure utilities, barriers, walkways, and warning systems are in place.

Fire Extinguisher Toolbox Talk

Toolbox Talk Topic: fire extinguisher safety inspection
In the event of fire incidents, employers expect their employees to use fire extinguishers. Using this as a topic for toolbox talk help employees get details in terms of its location as well as roles during fire emergencies. Discuss with your employees the different types of fire and the right extinguisher to use. Use a fire extinguisher inspection checklist to identify defects on tags seals on fire extinguishers and ensure safe for use.

Fire Safety Toolbox Talk

Toolbox Talk Topic: Fire safety
Raise awareness on fire risks and discuss with your team the different types of fire safety issues that may occur in the workplace. You can discuss fire prevention methods to mitigate fire risks and avoid injuries, and accidents. Check out fire safety checklists that can help solidify your fire safety plans.

First Aid Toolbox Talk

Toolbox Talk Topic: workplace first aid
Discuss this topic amongst your team to ensure everyone is knowledgeable on first aid arrangements in place. During your toolbox talk, cover where first aid equipment and supplies are stored, emergency contacts in case of a serious injury, and objectives to administer when providing first aid to an injured person until professional help arrives. Use a first-aid checklist to ensure that all supplies in the kit are complete and up to date to provide better medical care in the events of accidents or injuries.

Forklift Toolbox Talk

Toolbox Talk Topic: forklift toolbox talk
Usage of forklifts opens your workplace to the likelihoods of injuries and even death. Discuss with your team the basic forklift safety practices, be made aware of blind spots to forklifts. Ensure that your team whether they are the ones operating the forklift or not, are always alert and aware of these safety practices. Use a forklift checklist to ensure that all forklifts are in good working condition before use and that operators are well trained to use it.

Housekeeping Toolbox Talk

Toolbox Talk Topic: housekeeping in the workplace
Workplace housekeeping contributes to providing a safe workplace. A disorderly work environment not only lowers morale but also may result in employee injuries or worst-case scenario, death. To avoid this, you can conduct safety talks and cover general housekeeping rules and best practices. During your toolbox talk, you can also discuss the effects of poor housekeeping practices to emphasize the importance of proper housekeeping. Use a housekeeping checklist to eliminate workplace hazards and ensure cleanliness and organization in the workplace.

Manual Handling Toolbox Talk

Toolbox Talk Topic: manual handling
One of the most common injuries across industries relates to pain, strain, and injuries to the back. This is caused by using poor techniques in manual handling (e.g., twisting, turning, lifting, carrying materials, or digging). During your toolbox talks, discuss and demonstrate the best practices for manual handling. Use a manual handling risk assessment to identify and evaluate risk factors of manual handling in your workplace.

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More Engaging Toolbox Talks with Heads Up

Heads Up, SafetyCulture’s latest feature, makes it even easier to facilitate effective toolbox talks by allowing workers to submit comments and questions in real-time. Instead of following the same old format, your toolbox talks can be transformed into rich media messages with videos, images, or PDFs to help you communicate in the best way possible. Ensure that everyone has access to critical safety information at all times with video auto-captions and the ability to reference past toolbox talks at a moment’s notice.

FAQs About Toolbox Talks

Here are some topics that could be covered in a toolbox talk:

  • Electrical safety
  • Fire safety
  • Working at heights
  • Construction safety
  • Slips, trips, and falls
  • PPE safety
  • Confined space safety
  • Chemical safety
  • Accident/Incident reporting
  • Asbestos awareness
  • Machinery and equipment safety
  • Workplace violence prevention
  • Heat stress prevention
  • Proper housekeeping

At the end of the day, it is still important to tailor the toolbox talk to the specific job or task and to make sure that workers understand the information being presented.

The three point contact rule is a safety topic that is often discussed during toolbox meetings involving working at heights. This safety procedure emphasizes that workers should always have three points of contact with a stable surface at all times to reduce the risk of falling. The three points of contact can be two hands and one foot,  two feet and one hand, or simply three of the four limbs. This ensures that if one point of contact is lost, there are still two remaining points to prevent a fall.

Health and safety professionals recommend that toolbox talk meetings be conducted daily, weekly, or as often as the business needs call for. They are also highly dependent on the nature of work, job, or task, as well as the level of risks involved. Regularly performing toolbox talks helps promote a culture of safety within the workplace.

Toolbox talks are usually led by the supervisor, manager, safety coordinator, or designated safety representative from the organization. In some cases, workers may also be asked to lead toolbox talks, especially if they have extensive knowledge or experience related to the topic—which can also promote worker engagement and participation in the safety process.

Jona Tarlengco
Article by
Jona Tarlengco
Jona Tarlengco is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture since 2018. She usually writes about safety and quality topics, contributing to the creation of well-researched articles. Her 5-year experience in one of the world’s leading business news organisations helps enrich the quality of the information in her work.