steel construction toolbox talks

Steel Construction Toolbox Talks for the Shop and the Field

Steel Construction Toolbox Talks for the Shop and the Field

With the sheer potential for fatal or crippling accidents in the steel industry, it’s essential that safety is a priority at all times. However, while there are universal standards to follow, there are also individual points that each construction site needs to keep in mind. Are there new regulations in your state that require you to change your safety plan? Are you seeing an uptick in behavior that’s starting to skirt the line of being unsafe? You need to make these points as universally clear to your entire team as soon as possible.

This is accomplished through steel construction toolbox talks, a chance for everyone on the team to hear the same guidance and safety information at once. However, there is a right and wrong way for your leadership to handle this task. So, whether you are planning safety talks for fabrication shops or out on a job site, here’s what you need to know.

What Are Steel Construction Toolbox Talks?

A toolbox talk is an informal conversation between a team leader and the other workers on a site to discuss a particular safety issue. Generally not taking very long, these are held at a job site right before a project begins or a work shift starts. These discussions serve quite a few purposes, including:

  • -Refreshing the workers’ knowledge of basic safety protocol
  • -Making sure any final safety checks were done before work begins for the day
  • -Provide important information for the experienced workers to relay to newer team members/apprentices
  • -Create an opportunity to vocalize any health or safety issue discussions on the site
  • -Support a culture of safety in the company
  • -Boost overall morale among a team
  • -Improve team communication

Part of the reason toolbox talks are so important is because they are a bridge between company leadership and workers on the ground when it comes to safety. Like any company, there can be a disconnect between guidelines created by leadership and the practical needs of workers. Toolbox talks make sure that these higher directives and rules are given out in a way that everyone can understand. 

Note that while toolbox talks are intended to be a supplement to conventional safety training, they are a necessity in some states. For example, California law requires toolbox talks at least every 10 working days to support overall safety. 

steel construction toolbox talks
Photo By Pavel Ganchev – Paf

Making Steel Construction Toolbox Talks More Effective

Because toolbox talks are quick by nature, there’s not a lot of time to go over concepts or ideas if you don’t communicate effectively the first time. In fact, you may end up hurting morale rather than helping it if you’re constantly doing extended talks that don’t go anywhere. With that in mind, here are some important points to make sure that you’re making the most out of your toolbox talks.

Read things off a few times on your own before having the talk. Many people didn’t enter the steel business to become public speakers, and that’s fair enough. However, to avoid constantly slipping over your words in front of the team, it pays to read things over a few times. This also gives you a chance to look over the talk itself to see if anything you said has errors or comes off as awkward. Also, you want to make sure your phrasing is something everyone can understand.

Use examples. Talking about theory may work in a classroom, but on a job site, practical concerns are the most important. One of the best things you can do during a toolbox talk is give an example of a safety issue that your workers may encounter every day. This not only instantly puts context to your words, but it guides them on exactly what to do if that encounter takes place. If you’re able to do an in-person demonstration of a certain behavior, that’s worth looking into as well.

Set a reminder. While all your team is going to be present for the toolbox talk, giving a reminder lets them prepare in advance. Ideally, you want to mention what the topic will be in the remainder as well. This way, in case they have any questions, they can be prepared to bring them up. In addition, this lets them see a record of all the topics that you’ve covered. There may be some key ones that you are missing, so they can suggest them to you.

Employ positive reinforcement. It’s easy for workers to feel like toolbox talks are just a way to criticize them if you’re overly negative every time. Make sure to recognize moments where people are being safe as well as providing reminders when they don’t. A nice ratio to use, when possible, is bringing up 3 positive highlights for every negative point that you need to discuss.

steel construction toolbox talks
Photo By Nenov Brothers Images

A major part of having a successful steel fabrications toolbox talk is efficiency. You need to have all your major safety/workplace concerns put together before you have the discussion in order to save time and make sure all the essential take-home points are easy to understand. In turn, this means that you have a clear snapshot of the state of your business. This includes financial information, but also information on your employees. Are there any clear trends of misuse of materials, lateness, or other issues? Is proper protocol being followed when moving equipment from site to site? Are there any changes in regulations your team needs to be aware of?

Project management software like eSUB is the most effective method for people in the steel industry to have all the information they need in one place. Use our cloud storage and ability to track employee work times and equipment use to have a safety snapshot of your business at any given time. Check out issues right away so you can bring them up at the next toolbox talk.