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THE Top Tip – Toolbox Talks

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Toolbox talks are an essential part of any operation where multiple parties are involved. When engaged in activities that require simultaneous operations, such as cargo loading/securing, toolbox talks are key to ensuring everyone knows what the others are doing and what hazards are
present due to other operations.

You may be party to toolbox talks at all levels, from being an observer during a third party review, to holding the talk yourself as the lead contractor on a turnkey project. Therefore you should have a thorough understanding of what makes a successful toolbox talk.
• What is the purpose of the toolbox talk?
• Who needs to be involved?
• What does it need to cover?

The purpose of a toolbox talk, in general, is to brief the team doing the work. A toolbox talk may be a pre-operational brief to all hands, or a local start of shift briefing for a team. It can also serve as a good way to re-inforce changes to a methodology after a safety incident or other site change.

Toolbox talks will typically involve all parties who are directly involved in the operation. Those who are not directly involved can also be included if there is a safety concern regarding their presence, however, this should not impact on the need for briefing the essential persons.

Regardless of the overall purpose of a toolbox talk the contents will typically cover the 5 key topics below as a minimum.
1) Identify key personnel and who is in charge / responsible?
2) What the lines and means of communication are
3) Give a brief overview of the operation/ task
4) Highlight key hazards everyone needs to be aware of, including those caused by simultaneous operations (e.g. overhead lifting, proximity to unprotected edges, slips/trips/falls, climate and environment, and traffic)
5) Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements for the operation

A toolbox talk can also be used to remind all parties that they have an obligation and the right to stop any job if they see something they feel is unsafe.

The secret to a good toolbox talk is to cover the key points of the operation but be as concise as possible to ensure interest is maintained. It is a balancing act that is not always easy. In larger, more complex operations, it may be beneficial to have several toolbox talks, held at key points to reinforce the next stage of the process.