Safety management

6 Toolbox Talks to have During National Safety Month

Author: Urbint

June is National Safety Month, making it the perfect time to start having regular toolbox talks about pressing safety topics with your team (if you aren’t already!). Below, we share six toolbox talk topic ideas to consider for the month.

6 toolbox talk topics to cover with your team

1. Preventing musculoskeletal disorders

The theme for the first week of National Safety Month is musculoskeletal disorders, which are injuries to the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, and spinal discs. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), musculoskeletal disorders are the number one cause of workplace injury, costing employers billions in workers’ compensation and lost productivity annually. The good news is musculoskeletal disorders are largely preventable.

A toolbox talk about musculoskeletal disorders might cover how workers can reduce muscle stress and the likelihood of injury through controls (for example, using personal protective equipment like back belts) and proper ergonomics.

Look: 5 Reasons Your Safety Incident Rates Aren't Declining

2. Addressing worker fatigue

The second week of National Safety Month focuses on workplace impairment, which includes worker fatigue. Fatigued workers can be dangerous on a worksite because they may have reduced mental and physical functioning and delayed reaction times, among other side effects. Teaching workers to recognize the signs of fatigue in themselves and others as well as fatigue management solutions will benefit your entire workforce.

Following proper sleep hygiene is key to reducing worker fatigue. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), this includes sleeping 7 to 9 hours at a time without interruptions, avoiding caffeinated drinks before bedtime, creating an environment conducive to sleep, and following good health practices (i.e., healthy eating, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight).

While at work, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using a buddy system and periodically checking in on one another to make sure everyone is feeling alert. On a broader scale, workers should also look out for one another and speak up if they notice anyone struggling to keep their eyes open, yawning, or having trouble concentrating. Any fatigue-related incidents or close calls should be reported.

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3. Managing stress

Stress is another form of impairment that can distract workers from their jobs. Work itself can cause stress, but a person may also feel stress because of situations in their personal life. Stressed workers don’t simply forget their problems the moment they clock in, so it’s imperative that employers offer strategies and tools to channel stress in a safe and healthy manner.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, a few ways to ease stress include following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, avoiding tobacco and nicotine products, practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation, and learning when to say “no.” In addition, the Mayo Clinic Suggests connecting with others, listening to music, seeking out ways to laugh more, or talking with a professional therapist.

Related: 4 Ways to Foster Mentally Supportive Work Environments

4. Identifying hazards

Injury prevention is the focus of the third week of National Safety Month. According to the NSC, more than 4 million workplace injuries required medical attention in 2020. Failure to recognize hazards is one of the main causes of workplace injuries, illnesses, and incidents, according to OSHA, making hazard recognition the perfect topic for a toolbox talk.

Teaching workers the multi-step process of identifying and assessing worksite hazards will empower them to take action if they see something that doesn’t look right. OSHA outlines the steps as:

  • Collecting existing information about workplace hazards
  • Inspecting the workplace for safety hazards
  • Identifying health hazards
  • Conducting incident investigations
  • Identifying hazards associated with emergency and non-routine situations
  • Characterizing the nature of identified hazards, identifying interim control measures, and prioritizing hazards for control

When a hazard is identified, workers should stop work until it has been corrected. Before work begins again, supervisors should hold a new job briefing to discuss the hazard and how it has been controlled.

5. The importance of PPE

Personal protective equipment (PPE) provides a barrier between workers and hazards, so you’d think all workers would enthusiastically suit up. And yet, workers commonly forego their PPE, claiming it is unnecessary, uncomfortable, or too much of a hassle to bother with. This is especially true of workers who have gone a long time without experiencing or witnessing a safety incident.

National Safety Month is the perfect opportunity to talk with your workers about the importance of PPE. You can start by reviewing the types of PPE required on job sites as well as when PPE must be replaced (i.e., it’s torn, defaced, or feels questionable). You should also discuss the reasons for wearing proper PPE. When workers truly understand the dangers associated with their jobs and the protective benefits offered by PPE, they’re much more likely to comply.

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6. Preventing slips, trips, and falls

There were 1,102 fatal falls in the construction industry in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That number represents 20.7 percent of all workplace fatalities in the U.S. It’s not surprising, then, that slips, trips, and falls are the focus of week four of National Safety Month.

A toolbox talk on how to prevent slips, trips, and falls should cover speaking up when workers see a potential issue, cleaning up spills and anything slippery, ensuring walkways are clear of all tripping hazards, making sure floor mats lay flat, and not going over the load limit on a ladder, according to the CDC. If workers regularly work at height, you should also offer toolbox talks on the topics of fall protection requirements and equipment.

Check out: Preventing Fatal Falls in Construction

National Safety Month provides an excellent opportunity to focus workers’ attention on the importance of safety. Scheduling time for toolbox talks that cover these safety topics is a proactive way to prevent incidents.

Up next: How to Create a Safety-First Culture

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