Toolbox Meeting: Focusing On Effective Workplace HSE Culture

Tool box talk, Safety briefings/meetings, Tailgate chats and so on – the names vary by industry and worksite, are a useful way to keep health and safety forefront in the minds of your workers and make them aware of current risks and hazards. “It is a short presentation to the workforce on a single aspect of health and safety. It is also an informal group discussion that focuses on a particular safety issue,” said Oluwole Ojetokun, HSE Manager at Chi Limited.  Regular Toolbox meeting by supervisors to all workers help to foster a good health and safety culture.

 

Even if your organization has a solid safety culture, toolbox talk can be a great refresher on changes in safety regulations, procedures, personal protective equipment (PPE), and job assignments and responsibilities. “These tools can be used daily to promote the organizations safety culture and is dedicated to reducing occupational injuries, illnesses and fatalities in the company generally,” Ojetokun added.

 

To improve and make your toolbox talks effective, so that people are working together, you need to focus on making the meetings more positive.  By doing this you will increase the zeal, engagement and exploration. Let’s take a look at how you transform your safety meetings.

Distractions should be barred – Try to hold the toolbox talk in an area that is free of noise and other distractions. “If the workers cannot hear you talking, or are distracted by other activities in the area, they won’t be focusing on your talk,” said Curtis Chambers, a highly-regarded OSHA trainer. Focusing on one subject per talk will also lessen the odds that your employees will lose focus on the subject matter.

Explain the new positive approach – Let everyone know that from now on, safety tool box meetings are going to be different.  That you’re all going to start being positive about safety, as by being positive you will all greatly improve your safety record and enjoyment of work.  As the leader of the group, you want to make this approach sounds fun and inclusive.  Keep people in check who are distrustful or fearful of the new positive approach.  Ensure that you notice when something is being left unsaid or someone cannot get their say and encourages people to speak or cover issues that are being ignored.

Start with Gratitude – This is going to be difficult one for some, but being grateful is an extremely powerful way to make people feel happy and comfortable with one another.  Start your meeting with your staff thinking about positive things.   This enables them to bring more ideas and workable solutions to any problems discussed in meetings.

Talks should be short, pointed and fun – Safety talks should take no longer than 10-20 minutes. Temitope Mudele, HSE Manager of VACC Technical Limited, a building servicing contracting firm, said, “In our organisation, we have toolbox meeting on our site from 7:30am to 8am every day. We have a general one for 20 minute and a sectionised one for 10 minutes.” Topics should be specific to the work environment, you likely can address one specific hazard or issue and the relevant safeguards in 5-10 minute time span. Because you may not be able to cover everything you want to say in 10 minutes, you can distribute a pamphlet for workers to read. A good pamphlet is short, written in simple, clear language and gives specific action items that a worker can take to prevent injury or illness. “We show pictures of consequences of unsafe act/practices,” Hassan B. Hassan, Group HSE Advisor at BCL Nigeria Limited, said of his organisation’s Toolbox meeting.

Focus on what is best for the company or group rather than people overly focusing on themselves- As the leader, you need to let people know that they need to act in the best interests of the group.  If you realise that someone has brought up an issue that is for their own personal agenda, then you need to clarify this and get them to work on a group solution.  If group members criticise someone or the company get them to open with “I might suggest…” rather than criticizing.  Encourage people to ask questions when they do not understand issues or someone’s point of view (rather than resorting to negative comments).

Tell stories to reaffirm correct safety behaviour – Once you’ve started these meetings, as the leader you need to give examples of the types of behaviour that you want to see repeated.  Become a story finder and look out for examples during your work week.  Avoid generic topics and general statements such as “do better.” Pin down specifics, and lay out exactly what is expected. “Your job is to get people to imagine, think and feel the value of the talking point. Help employees visualize the content of the training through pictures and video and through sharing personal examples. Humor is another great device to engage workers. “We also do demonstration aside reading to people. We make it lively by adding jokes; we are not rigid,” Hassan of BCL Limited said. In addition, telling stories makes the problem a lot more real for people and helps them understand the seriousness of the hazard. A good trainer will comb the local papers for stories of fatalities, injuries or accidents or relate stories of problems they have run up against or witnessed. You can find such stories monthly in Safety Record Newspaper and online page.

Announcing Safety Rewards – When it comes to enhancing performance and motivating staff – the best reward is positive feedback.  It might seem somewhat, but we all like to hear we are doing a good job.  And we’re not likely to cheat or exhibit unethical behaviour, just to hear our boss give us a good rap.  Make sure the feedback explains why the behaviour was good.  You could also reward people with certificates, gifts or products.

Allow time for questions and discussion – Always give workers an opportunity to ask questions. “Don’t make unpleasant remarks to employees who ask a question, as this will discourage others from asking questions later. “It’s an avenue for employees to share their view and discuss any health and safety issues that arise on site. It also serves as an avenue for getting feedback from employees,” Mudele said.

Talks can be made much more effective by making them interactive with a question and answer format. Nobody likes to be lectured, and workers bring a lot of experience and knowledge to a safety meeting. Posing safety problems or concerns and asking for input or solutions will result in a collaborative approach to safety that increases the effectiveness of your program. By asking for their input, you show respect and make workers full partners in the safety process.

Practice what you preach – Always set a good example, nothing makes a trainer lose credibility faster than to have a worker see them doing something that violates the safety precautions that were covered in a previous toolbox talk.

Safety talks should be documented- One of the most frequently cited OSHA standards maintains that it’s the employer’s responsibility to train employees regarding all workplace hazards and their appropriate safeguards. The Lagos State Safety Commission and other regulatory body also demand this. Documentation is the only way to prove to the regulatory bodies that this training has been completed. Even if certain standards do not require documentation of safety training, it can’t hurt to have the information about the topic, the trainer, the date and names of the workers on file. According to Mudele at VACC Technical Limited, “During the talk, we take attendance and if a worker is absent for three times within a month, such person will be subjected to disciplinary action.”

Summing it Up

Mudele said holding toolbox meeting further shows the company’s commitment to health and safety tied directly to productivity. To get disengaged staff more engaged in toolbox talks, you can really improve the energy levels by making the meetings more positive.  By introducing things to be thankful for at the start of the meeting and ensuring that your meetings have at a minimum three positive comments to one negative, you will really start to change the dynamics of the meetings.  As the leader, chair the meetings so that everyone has a chance to give feedback and that all participants feel safe to talk.  It will change things in a way you thought were not possible.

 

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CASE STUDY OF TOOLBOX MEETING IN CHI LIMITED

HOW TOOL-BOX HAS TRANSFORMED OUR SAFETY PROCESSES/OPERATION IN THE ORGANISATION

CHI limited is one of the most admired companies in the Food & Beverages industry in Nigeria. It offers products that are themselves benchmarks in their respective categories of Juice, Dairy and Snacks. Today, CHI Limited is the undisputed market leader in varieties of fruit juices, fruit drinks, diary, yoghurts and snacks in Nigeria.

Since there is a safety culture in place, the shared attitudes, belief, values and behavior of Staff to HSE is upmost in everyone’s line of duties. That notwithstanding, HSE Department still ensures that the processes are checked and pushed accordingly by applying risk assessment, LOTO, work instructions, Toolbox talk, training, Work Permit, etc. in order to checkmate the operations of our staff, visitors and Contractors.

Toolbox talks are a useful way of keeping health and safety at the forefront of our team’s minds and making them aware of the current risks and hazards as applicable to the operation at hand.

 

Usually the talk is:

  1. Relevant: is relevant and relate to the worksite and work that is being undertaken
  2. Brief: Always brief and focus on a single topic.
  3. Work Location specified: delivered usually at the worksite, shop floor and work areas and environment where the Staff/Third Party Contractors can concentrate on the message.
  4. Engaging: Also engage our staff by being interactive; make them ask us questions and most times discuss issues and ask for inputs or possible solutions.
  5. Inclusive of Past stories / incident: We also give them a recap stories in order to make the issue more real.
  6. Timely and under control: we manage the meeting that everyone is involved and making the discussions relevant.
  7. Continuously improve: Listen and act on feedback immediately.

 

We also remind our Staff/Third Party Contractors that incase or if at any time they consider they are working in an unsafe way, that puts themselves or others at risk, they should stop work immediately and take a time out.

IMPLEMENTATION

Toolbox delivery has been made a routine activity for safety officers in Chi Limited, especially in our incident prone areas, activities and before the commencement of a major repair/maintenance job.

If you cooperate in safety matters, not only is there a lesser likelihood of you getting hurt, you will not be doing battle with the boss who is just trying to do his job by enforcing the safety rules. In addition, you should feel more confident on the job knowing you have a better chance of making it thorough the day without injury. Less fear of injury and the boss no longer on your back has to brighten your day!

To maximize our safety efforts, we look out for one another, some scenarios within our Premises:

  1. Scenario1: Job type: Offloading of massive production equipment.

This job was carried out by a third party contractor involving the use of cranes, high tonnage forklifts etc which was carried out on a weekday. Toolbox talk was necessary for this kind of job, the contractors were educated on hazards related to the job especially on how to manage staff traffic along the work area and prevent injuries due to the technique to be used in offloading the equipment. In all, we recorded zero incidents all through the period of the job.

  1. Scenario 2: Forklift Operation.

At some point within the factory, forklift operators were known to exceed speed limits in other to meet set targets by supervisors, thereby increasing unsafe acts due to forklift operation within the premises. Regular toolbox talk for operators was the tool used to completely eliminate the unsafe act, which is still continuous. In fact, we also have a mandatory monthly training on safe operation of forklift to always keep our forklift operators in check at all times.

Generally, amongst workers, we have established ways by which non-conformance to working safely are addressed such that even if you don’t know you were doing something wrong, be thankful your errors were noted before someone got hurt.

With this safety culture and the effective use of toolbox, our level of incidences have reduced considerably over the years and I can categorically say that Toolbox talk is an effective tool that has transformed the processes of my facility.

 

 

Post Author: David Chibueze