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14 | Loss Prevention Bulletin 220

August 2011

Good practice

Toolbox talks
Lee Allford* and Phillip Carson**
*European Process Safety Centre ** Intertek 4-Front Research Introduction
Corporate mission statements frequently acknowledge the workforce as their most valuable asset.1 Contemporary trends in safety, health and environmental (SHE) legislation towards local risk-based approaches relies heavily on consultation2 directly with the workforce or indirectly via their representatives, and less and less on government inspection to achieve compliance. Nowadays a co-operative partnership between management and their employees therefore is essential for delivering improved SHE performance to satisfy legal requirements, business goals, and moral obligations. Consultation with employees on a wide range of issues including hazards and precautions is crucial in fostering such collaborative relationships and promoting a positive SHE culture within the organisation without diminution of managements overall legal obligations. A crucial component of the management strategy includes safety interventions such as training and management systems to change attitudes and beliefs and eventually modify individual behaviour3 in order to e.g. improve compliance; reduce risk to the workforce, contractors, visitors, the neighbouring populace, and the environment; change culture at individual, team and organisational levels; improve morale; reduce direct and indirect costs associated with accidents and ill-health; improve workflow. The provision of information, training and instruction will include generic material (emergency alarms, evacuation drills, legislation, etc) and more specific tasks (risk assessments, MSDS, operational process or maintenance instructions, etc). This is required during induction and periodically thereafter to refresh employee understanding. They will also feature as part of the management of change (e.g. job changes, modification of processes/ materials), for developing specialist skills (e.g. hot-work, first-aid, operation of machinery, entry into confined space, working at height), or as part of the continuous improvement process e.g. after audits, investigation of accidents or near-miss incidents. Employers should adopt the most appropriate manner for communicating information3 and for providing training and instruction. Tactics available include emails, safety committee meetings, notices, formal group on- and off-thejob training courses, formalised apprenticeships, computerised e-learning modules, and more informal team sessions such as toolbox talks. This paper focuses on toolbox talks.

Discussion Definition
Historically, companies have used toolbox talks to discuss with employees subjects ranging from production, to quality, operating procedures, engineering plans, project status, human resource issues, and company policy. In the present context toolbox talks, alternatively termed toolbox topics, safety chats, safety briefings, or tailgate meetings have been used extensively by the construction and oil industries4, and increasingly by other sectors including the facilities, and chemical and allied process industries as regular, short (530 minutes) informal ways of educating the workforce on specific SHE topics. They are used internationally to varying degrees4. As with any communication process, the effectiveness of toolbox talks will be influenced by many factors5 including the status, credibility and communication skills of the presenter; the content, nature and medium of the message; the audience, and opportunities for feedback i.e. they are intended to be a two-way dialogue. Opportunities for, and consequences of, communication breakdown on SHE performance have been reviewed elsewhere with illustrative case histories6.

Traditionally, the agenda is set by management although the workforce should be encouraged to suggest topics and/or deliver the session. Indications are that toolbox talks have been more popular for safety than for health or environmental concerns4. The subject matter should focus on general or specific hazards and technical, procedural and behavioural control measures7 with defined endpoints. Scope has included reiteration of existing procedures, planned changes, simultaneous operations, tools and equipment, communication, contingency plans8. Toolbox talks may be used when new or previously unrecognised hazards are identified and to discuss the risks and control measures identified by risk assessments4, but copies of the risk assessment document should be available

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for discussion. Photographs, diagrams or translators may be essential aids9. HSE have produced 33 model Risk Assessments10 (only two of which specifically mention toolbox talks although the technique may be applied for discussing the remainder). The talks may also be useful mechanisms for debating the outcome of incident and accident investigations including causes, lessons learned and recommendations for corrective actions.

As with any training or means of communication, management must be cognizant of the foregoing nuances. Records of attendance may be kept, although there is some debate of the advantages in minimising the documentation for informal sessions. The presence of SHE advisers should be considered as appropriate.

Use of toolbox talks is a key factor in culture/human factors development if done well, and when run correctly strengths include: encouraged participation by all parties involved; reinforced messages/instructions previously conveyed by other means; not costly (time/resource/financial); enhanced development of a safe-working culture; problems and areas for further improvement identified. Indeed, the HSE has published14 a number of case studies which highlight the contribution that toolbox talks (or equivalent) can make towards worker engagement and the subsequent improvement in safety performance. Table 1(after 4) lists a number of factors identified and promoted as leading to successful toolbox delivery. However, key conclusions from a review4 of the literature and 111 responses to an on-line questionnaire survey on toolbox talks included some less positive observations: There is a dearth of subjective evidence to support their cost-effectiveness. Possibly, this is because the brief and informal nature of the talks does not lend itself to the same post session analysis as that used for evaluating formal courses15 (the majority of respondents did not consider toolbox talks to be formal training). It may also be due to the lack of business and financial competence of many SHE professionals. Monitoring the effect on performance such as accident and incident reporting and other traditional leading and lagging indicators is also fraught with difficulties. (SHE leading and lagging metrics are discussed elsewhere16). The majority of users do not set objectives against which results can be measured; Although relatively cheap to deliver, the effort involved in generating a talk should not be underestimated; Toolbox talks are not universally accepted with a significant number of respondents to a posting on one website raising negative concerns over their value which centred around their use providing a false sense of topdown commitment to SHE, too heavily influenced by the presenter, often used as a substitute for formal training. (The motives may be too narrow e.g. complying with legislation, reduced insurance costs.12) However, of the 111 respondents to the online survey the majority were supportive, though on what basis this belief is grounded is uncertain and 95% of respondents agreed that it is difficult to isolate the effects of toolbox talks from other initiatives4. 80% respondents use

Toolbox talks may be delivered on demand (for example, following stoppage, prior to introducing change) or at a regular frequency e.g. weekly, shift changeover. However, once a company has committed themselves to the latter, they need to establish a mechanism to ensure they happen on schedule to avoid loss of credibility. Typically, the talks are delivered by the supervisor or first-line manager with work teams at the work site. They provide an additional opportunity to the more traditional means of communication/training for consultation on SHE matters. The main method of delivery is reported4 to be reading from a pre-prepared briefing script linked to demonstrations. Power Point presentations are less commonly used. This may be because the location of the sessions on the plant-floor, workshop, crew-room, canteen, portacabin, etc is less amenable to this mode of delivery, although handouts of the slides could be distributed for discussion. The pitfalls of over-reliance on Power Point have been highlighted11. Video and DVD toolbox talks have also been used. Whilst workplace training has many attractions (uses the actual equipment available at the site, convenient, economical with respect to time and money) it is crucial to ensure the environment is conducive to learning i.e. quiet, adequately lit, devoid of distraction. At the end of the session there should be a check on the teams understanding of the critical points, especially when the attendees are multidisciplinary, multicultural and /or multilingual.

The main target audience is operatives. It crucial to recognise that individuals differ in their abilities and willingness to learn12 with respect to their self motivation, existing knowledge base, response to respect for experience, their level of involvement and active engagement, language skills etc. Their perceptions of risk may vary as a result of personal experience, social and educational backgrounds, and culture5. With the changing nature of employment there is increased reliance on contract, or fixed-term temporary workers. Such workers must be on an equal footing to permanent employees with regards SHE considerations and receive the same information instruction and training as their fulltime counterparts doing the same job. One study13 suggests, however, that proportionately more temporary workers are involved in accidents than are permanent staff, and the former tend to be more distrustful of organisational commitment to SHE.

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Table 1: Factors contributing to successful toolbox talks Involve everyone who will be involved in the job Ensure relevance to the site and work Deliver where it will be most appropriate and at a time when people will devote attention (e.g. early morning) Check location for suitability, interruptions etc Have material ready (handouts, notes etc) Ensure leader knows the material and has rehearsed Know the team and consider their experience and roles Allocate sufficient time for preparation, delivery and questions Break the ice Objective of the session should be clarified in opening sentence e.g. we are going to talk about the fit testing of respirators so that you understand how it is done rather than we are going to talk about respirators Explain why the topic is important to the work situation Use real tools, equipment, material and site situations to illustrate key points Use plain language with narrow focus. Encourage attendees to do the thinking. Ask someone to outline the job that has to be done and the different responsibilities of each person Ask another person what the main hazards are what can hurt us and what we have already decided to do to avoid these Ask people if they can think of anything else that will hurt us and what else could go wrong. Ask people to discuss when they know the job will be complete and what could hurt us after the job is complete. Mention personal experiences Refer to legislation and best practice Limit talking to 510 minutes allowing ample opportunity for discusion and questions Generate discussion by asking questions Be a good listener No one should mock any question No one should show impatience if someone is struggling to understand what is required. Confirm the message has been received and understood e.g. ask someone to demonstrate the correct way, etc and by observing actual behaviour Note any issues and follow them up to resolution and let the attendees know. Close on a positive note by reminding attendees of critical points, thanking them for listening and their contribution, asking for feedback, and emphasising that they can raise SHE issues at any time.

in-house or corporate packages with only 13% relying on toolboxes from government websites or commercial providers; Only 50% of toolbox presenters have received special training. The review indicated that the vast majority of respondents record attendances at meetings. Clearly, further research is required to obtain objective data to assess the effectiveness of this tool.

Sources of toolbox talks

Most toolbox talks are developed in house although material is available externally as illustrated by the selected examples in Table 2 (after 4). The Institution of Chemical Engineers has developed a portfolio of tool box talks aimed at the chemical and process industries (Table 3). These are designed as Power Point presentations capable of modification in-line with users requirements. In the spirit of consultation the Editor would be keen to learn of readers

Table 2: Selected organisations promoting toolbox talks (TBT) Organisation Government Agencies HSE UK Various toolbox talks usually in PPT format and aligned with specific campaigns example chosen on ladder safety Twelve toolbox talks on video (free) Site Notes

H.S.A.(ROI) Quarry_Safety_Videos/Quarry_Safety_ Videos.html


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Table 2: Selected organisations promoting toolbox talks (TBT) (Continued) Organisation Worksafe BC (Canada) Site qtool&sp_asp10024f66&sp_k&sp_n31&sp_ fISO-8859-1&search.x11&search.y9 aspx?ktoolbox Notes Toolbox meeting guides and meeting checklist Record form only

Workcover NSW (Australia) Professional Associations CEF (NI) HVCA (UK) CODESL40 SearchTerm/toolbox/Results.aspx

24 environmental toolbox talks 45 building engineering services toolbox talks (20 members, 40 non-members) 29 miscellaneous toolbox talks (free) See Table 3 36 free building trades toolbox talks (free for members)

Health and Safety Tips IChemE (UK) HBA (US) Commercial Sites

Learning Systems Australia No samples Ergo risk Canada OSHA Campus (USA) Safety services (US & Canada) HR training university (USA) Seguro Other Carillion plc SiteSafe NZ Bectel CAT Safety toolbox Shell performance/a1_4_3_4_2_tootbox_talks.htm View&Category_id184 35 environmental toolbox talks Over 50 toolbox talks (members only) 7 years of freely available TBT php index.php aspx?SiteSearchID50&ID/resultpage.htm Ergonomic topics Construction TBT Spanish/English English Spanish sample only without subscription Videos and associated tailgate presentations 70 toolbox talks (free) Large collection of free toolbox ieldtoolbox&s205&m154441&x7 talks Various

52 TBT relating to safety for contractors on retail sites toolbox&results_optionscores&begin 0&siteldcorporate&subdivisioncorporate&method Boolean%20Search&navSectionall&facet_contentTypetext&templaterumba&originalreferrer corporate&facet_contentTypetext ca 30 free TBTs (Continued)


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Table 2: Selected organisations promoting toolbox talks (TBT) (Continued) Organisation UK Health&Safety Consultants Scribd Belfry Group Ltd Site http://www.belfry 20Talks%20Booklet.pdf Notes Small collection free 52 TBTs free 24 free TBTs

Table 3: Toolbox talks available from IChemE Title Working with pressurized equipment A name makes a difference The hazards of unguarded holes in floors Low pressure and vacuum hazards Gas testing not as straightforward as it seems Hazards from falling objects Like for like maintenance Whats in that tanker? Working at height Furnace start-up Fork lift truck safety Hazardous crane loads Isolation of equipment for maintenance Kitchen safety Underground hazards Confined space entry: Identification Confined space entry: Follow procedures Confined space entry: Emergency procedures The hazards of steam and hot water The hazards of water and ice Hazards of nitrogen Theres a fire in my bucket. Hazards of Static Electricity Hazards of Sampling Isolation of electrically driven equipment for maintenance Hazards of pouring powders from plastic bags Large crane use Identification of equipment for maintenance Corrosion around plants keep your eyes open The hazards of empty drums PPE Confined space entry: Follow procedures RPE Bunding simple and reliable Introduction to Permit to work Hand-over procedures Recommissioning after work experience with toolbox talks and would be happy to receive suggestions for additional topics to be covered in future presentations. Other material on process safety that could be used to prepare in-house toolbox talks includes accident reports and safety videos from the Chemical Safety Board17 and the Centre for Chemical Process Safety18. External case histories such as those described in the Bulletin are an additional

valuable resource. Care is required when using any material sourced outside the company to ensure it is relevant to the site so that operatives can associate with the message.

1. George Wimpey, wmpy/csr2006/csr.jsp?pageemployees 2. Stranks, J., The A-Z of Health and Safety, Thorogood, Publ.Ltd, London, 2006 3. a) Larkin, T. and Larkin, S., Communicating change: winning employee support for new business goals, McGraw Hill Inc, 1994 b) ibid, Change the communication channel: Web, paper or face-to-face: knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each channel can help you choose the one that best suits your message, Communication World, 2005, 1 4 Riley, A., Are toolbox talks an effective means of improving safety behaviour in a business, MSc Thesis, University of Sunderland, Sept 2009 5. Fuller, C.W. and Vassie, L.H., Health and Safety Management Principles and Best Practice, FT Prentice Hall, London, 2004 6. Carson, P.A. and Mumford, C.J., Loss Prevention Bulletin, 2011 (218), 5 7. Boyle, T., Health and Safety Risk Management, 3rd edn, Wigston, 2008 8. International Marine Contractors Assoc. Safety Seminar, Houston 2009 9. Anon, Risk assessment guidance (full document) Step 6 communicating the findings http://www.leeds. 10. HSE, 11. Kletz, T.A. Loss Prevention Bulletin, 2011 (218), 15 12. Baker, R and Wallerstein, N., Health and safety education and worker training in International Labor Organization Encyclopaedia for Health and Safety. J. Stellman, (ed), Geneva, 1997 13. Clarke, T., Managing Health and Safety in Building and Construction, Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford, 1999 14. HSE, casestudies.htm#Worker_engagement_initiative 15. Donovan. P. and Townsend. J. (2004)The Training Evaluation Pocketbook: (Management Pocketbooks Series), Management Pocketbooks Ltd, Aylesford 16 Carson, P. A. and Snowden, D., Loss Prevention Bulletin, 2010 (212), 11 17. 18.

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