Beyond the Boring Safety Lecture: Making Toolbox Talks Engaging

July 22, 2014

toolboxOne of the main challenges for safety specialists is ensuring that “Toolbox Talks” are both engaging and informative. These talks are typically short discussions of a specific topic addressed in simple terms. Because of the way they are presented, these important safety lectures often come across as dull or even condescending. By changing the way we present safety information, we can reduce the number of workplace hazards and injuries and increase the receptiveness of employees to these critical concepts.

Toolbox Talks can cover any topic deemed necessary for the health and wellbeing of the workforce, and can include everything from proper hygiene to complex safety guidelines. Often, the core of these talks is simple common sense. By presenting Toolbox Talks in an engaging and even humorous manner, employees are much more likely to pay attention and integrate the information into their daily work. It is important to remember that the safety specialist presenting these lectures is setting the tone for the safety culture of the entire department.

One method to increase information retention is to abandon the traditional lecture style all together. By replacing lengthy speeches with a series of question and answer discussions, employees will be much more likely to engage in the talk and to internalize the message. The safety specialist could present a brief case study of an employee injury and guide discussion of what could have been done to prevent the situation. When employees are encouraged to bring up safety concerns, they will feel a greater sense of ownership over the safety of themselves and their colleagues.

Another engaging method is to play a game of “spot the hazard.” The safety supervisor could display pictures of work stations from either their own site or similar work sites and employees could compete to see who could identify the most safety hazards. This game could also be played with the goal of spotting correct safety behaviour. An alternative to pictures is to lead employees to the equipment of the day and encourage them to point out possible hazards and talk about the proper way to use the equipment.

While games and preventative measures are a great way to encourage safety in the workplace, there will inevitably be times when an injury occurs and a serious lecture is required. In these situations, it is critical to maintain a non-hostile tone and focus on turning the event into a teaching moment. Employee engagement in the safety lecture is more important than ever when addressing established safety hazards, and employees should be an active part of finding solutions to existing workplace hazards and identifying and correcting their own bad habits.

Driving home the importance of workplace safety by talking about the effects of poor safety behaviour on both the individual and company is a critical component of safety culture. Rewarding safe workplace behaviour and encouraging employees to see safety talks as a useful and enjoyable way to start the day is a surefire way to increase the effectiveness of Toolbox Talks and decrease workplace injuries.

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training and Development

Mark Williams 3

(Image by Gualberto107 at

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