There is no shortage of construction safety topics, but sometimes workers simply aren’t interested in covering safety issues beyond what they have always known. If you want to keep your workers and job sites safe, you have to conduct regular safety meetings.
In fact, according to research, members of the Associated Builders and Contractors who underwent the Safety Training and Evaluation Process (STEP) found their companies were 680% safer than the industry standard and saw an 85% reduction in total recordable incident rates (TRIR) over billions of hours worked.
But how can you keep these meetings interesting and the workers receptive to regular safety meetings? Coming up with relevant topics for your toolbox talks and keeping your meetings regular and required will help prevent accidents and injuries and keep your workers safe.
What are safety meetings, and why do they matter?
Safety is a top priority in the construction industry. To ensure a safe work environment, construction companies conduct regular safety meetings. These meetings play a crucial role in promoting awareness, training employees, and preventing accidents.
A safety meeting is a short meeting to discuss safety topics for construction at a jobsite. These should take no longer than 10 to 15 minutes. Meetings that last longer than 15 minutes might tend to bore your workers, causing them to lose interest.
Some toolbox talks will conclude with a review or quiz, but that’s not always necessary. Safety meetings are key to helping your crews identify safety hazards, prevent injuries and deaths, and improve communication about the importance of construction safety.
Other terms used to describe these meetings include:
- Safety brief
- Toolbox Talk
- Safety moment
- Safety talk
- Health and safety brief
- Tailgate meeting
However you and your crews choose to term it, these short meetings are useful to remind your workers of the importance of safety on the job and to teach newcomers to the site about unique safety issues on a particular jobsite.
How are construction toolbox safety talks managed?
If you are a designated toolbox safety meeting leader, don’t bore your crew members with minute details. Instead, offer value without being redundant. Your safety meetings should serve these purposes:
- Provide new safety-centered information
- Refresh current safety-centered information
- Teach compliance with specific legal requirements for the project.
Usually, the general contractor or any other authorized leader will initiate the discussion, which should relate to the project and jobsite being worked on. The more safety talks you do, the more regular they will become, so the process will be more consistent and your crews will know what to expect.
You can provide an attendance form to verify everyone’s attendance at the meeting. Your safety meetings should focus solely on safety issues rather than general project information. Each project and jobsite is different, so they should focus on safety issues concerning the unique safety issues of that project.
Try to focus on safety topics that revolve around the specific tasks being worked on that day, and encourage feedback and discussion from those in attendance.
Top construction safety topics for your next meeting
Bear in mind that construction safety meeting topics can vary if you’re working in an unusual or unique area or on a different type of project. While these toolbox safety topics apply to most jobsites, there are others you may want to consider addressing if you’re doing unusual or specialized work.
1. Fire Safety
Fire safety should be discussed frequently during construction safety meetings. Fires at construction sites cause countless deaths and injuries and result in hundreds of millions of dollars in property loss and damage each year.
The seven most commonly cited causes of construction site fires are:
- Electrical failure/malfunction
- Abandoned, discarded materials/products
- Heat sources too close to combustibles
- Cutting/welding too close to combustibles
- Unclassified misuse of materials/products
- Unattended equipment
- Failure to clean
To help reduce the risk of fire, go over these common hazards in your toolbox talks and share the importance of vigilance at the worksite. Go over how to use fire extinguishers, and iterate the importance of their accessibility so workers know not to block their access to them.
The National Fire Protection Agency offers free construction fire safety training, which would be useful for your workers to have a basic understanding of fire safety.
Electrical safety must always be a priority. This can be an important safety topic to cover, particularly when your team is working with heavy machinery or near high-voltage areas. Go over safety protocols when it comes to dealing with electrical issues, most of which should be handled by a qualified, licensed electrical technician.
Electrical injuries are among OSHA’s fatal four because, while they’re not as frequent as falls, they do often happen and are frequently deadly. Most construction workers are aware they should watch for exposed wires or electrical damage, but it’s a construction safety meeting topic you should go over to refresh everyone’s memory and teach new workers.
3. Fall protection
Make sure to go over the importance of putting things where they belong and staying aware of the environment. Discuss the best footwear to help prevent slips and falls and go over the proper places to put tools, equipment, and other items away.
Another of the fatal four, thousands of construction professionals fall every day on the worksite. Falls are usually the result of a combination of poor work conditions and poor decisions, but can also result from PPE failure.
Discuss how the worksite might have fall hazards with your crews and which particular jobs are at a higher risk. Cover different methods that can be used to prevent falls, such as safety harnesses, anchor systems, netting, or guardrails or barriers. See what your crew thinks is the best idea. Go over the condition of your existing fall protection equipment with your workers because they know best if any needs to be repaired or replaced.
When allowed to be a part of the decision-making process, most workers feel they have a stake in the safety results.
Falling objects are among OSHA’s fatal four, which are collectively responsible for thousands of construction-related deaths and injuries a year. And it doesn’t have to be a large object or piece of equipment.
Something as small as a bolt could cause physical harm when dropped from a high place, or could cause damage to equipment below.
During your toolbox talks on falling objects, make sure your workers understand the importance of recognizing and removing potential fall hazards or discuss options to prevent objects from falling, such as nets, safety barriers, or tethers/lanyards to prevent dropped tools.
Safety compliance ensures everyone is clear on the importance of putting things back where they belong and not leaving small pieces lying around.
4. Asbestos awareness
A common but potentially lethal safety issue is asbestos. When working on old buildings, your team may come into contact with asbestos. This exposure can cause significant health hazards, therefore, a meeting about asbestos safety is necessary. Knowing how to handle materials that may contain asbestos and understanding its associated risks is paramount for worker safety.
5. Confined spaces
Working in confined spaces can be risky. Regular safety meetings that cover confined space safety are important. Make sure your team knows the correct procedures for ventilation, exiting quickly, and how to handle emergency situations in cramped conditions.
6. Ladder safety
Many accidents occur due to improper use of ladders. Emphasize the relevance of correct positioning, securing, and usage of ladders at your meetings.
7. Dealing with accidents
An important safety topic that cannot be overstressed is first aid and accident handling. Ensure everyone on the worksite knows the basics of dealing with injuries until professional help arrives.
8. Preventing workplace violence
Workplace violence is sadly an all-too-common occurrence. Make it a point to discuss your company's policies and strategies for mediating conflicts and ensuring a respectful working environment for all.
9. Demolition dangers
Demolition jobs come with a unique set of hazards. Make sure your team understands the dangers and precautions associated with demolition works. Giving an overview of what to expect can prepare your team for virtually any situation.
10. Human factors and ergonomics
Remember to discuss the importance of taking regular breaks, hydrating, and maintaining good posture. This can help prevent a range of health issues from muscle strain to repetitive stress injuries.
11. Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) comes in many different forms and depends on the jobs being performed. If you do not have adequate and functional PPE for your workers, you risk injuries as well as the increased risk of receiving safety violations.
Construction PPE includes:
- Skin protection
- Respiratory protective equipment
- Eye protection
- Head protection
- Ear protection
- Foot protection
- Hand and arm protection
- Body protection
- Fall protection
PPE must meet certain requirements to be safe to use, and all PPE should be regularly inspected to determine if it needs to be replaced or repaired.
During your safety meeting toolbox talks, have your crews focus on PPE that is due to be inspected. For example, you could have everyone report with their goggles or hard hats, to ensure they are still safe and secure.
Everyone on your crew should know what PPE is and what each piece of PPE is for (as well as what it is not for).
If you have women on your crew, bear in mind they generally will run in smaller sizes. Ensure the smaller members of your teams have the right PPE for their jobs and their safety. The same applies if you have larger-than-usual crew members who might need larger sizes for their PPE to fit properly.
12. Hazard identification and communication
While all job sites have safety hazards, each is different, with different surroundings, tools, people, and environments.
During your safety meetings, make sure your crews know the different safety hazards that exist, and discuss things they should watch for and report, should they discover new ones.
13. Lockout and tag-out procedures
Every work site has equipment that occasionally needs to be serviced or is operated by only those qualified to do so. Take time to go over the lockout procedures with your teams, so they know how to protect anyone who services the equipment.
Tag-outs help identify who last worked on the item or equipment and any important details regarding it. Your construction safety meetings are an ideal place to go over the policies and procedures around these important practices.
14. First aid
Construction safety talks are the best place to review basic first aid with your workers. In some cases, specialized training might be required by OSHA such as logging operations, electric power, shipyard employment, or other types of specific fields/sites.
Go over specific first aid applications such as dressing wounds, tending to burns, and flushing eyes. Have your crews go over first aid needs on the job site that might be unique to that job, and designate a particular person to ensure the first aid kits required by OSHA are up-to-date and complete.
15. Working at heights
Working at heights involves great risks. Fall protection must undergo thorough discussion, as we have already covered, as well as ladder safety, to prevent accidents from occurring.
From sunburns to chemical burns, the possibilities are endless in a construction site. A routine safety meeting is an opportunity to remind workers to take precautious measures like wearing protective clothing and using SPF creams while working under the sun and instruct them on how to handle hazardous substances.
17. Hard hat
The iconic hard hat is more than a piece of equipment; it's a symbol of construction safety. Despite its importance, some workers may underestimate its relevance. Discussions around this important safety topic are an excellent way to remind workers to always wear their hard hats and keep themselves and their fellow workers safe.
18. Lightning safety
Working outdoors brings the risk of being caught in a lightning storm. Brief your employees on fundamental lightning safety tips such as seeking shelter immediately when they hear thunder.
Keep everyone safe on your jobsites
Safety meetings are a crucial part of having a strong, safe, and productive worksite and workforce. When starting a new project at a new job site, always cover new or unfamiliar hazards before anyone starts work. Start each workday with a brief toolbox talk, and use your construction safety topics in meetings to address these important topics.
ClockShark understands the necessity of construction safety. That’s one way Clock Out Questions helps our clients stay safe. Custom questions geared towards each employee allow you to make sure everyone is safe when they clock out.