Delivering short safety talks (commonly known as toolbox talks) is crucial for helping teams work safely. But it’s not easy if you struggle with public speaking (as four in 10 Americans do) or simply find it hard to keep your audience focused.
And if workers become distracted or ignore your advice, they could be unaware of potential risks or solutions to dangerous problems. That’s why it’s vital that you make your short toolbox talks as engaging and informative as you can.
A good safety talk helps prepare teams for the work ahead, raise awareness of potential risks, and increase their knowledge of what to do in an emergency. Ideally, you’ll combine a powerful short safety topic with captivating delivery that holds workers’ attention and makes them remember it long after it’s over.
In this post, we’ll explore five tips to help you improve your presentation skills and 10 ideas to inspire your talks.
Tips for Clear, Effective, and Engaging Short Safety Talks
Great safety talks could help to reduce the likelihood of injuries in your workplace and create a team who is more conscious of safety. But it’s not just the content that matters: the way you present that content and convey your message to listeners is just as important.
Whether you’re new to the prospect of addressing a team regularly (even daily) or want to improve your talks, these tips will help.
Prepare and Rehearse
Trying to plan relevant short safety topics for toolbox meetings multiple times per week might make the process more intimidating. But if you wing it on the day of, you could fail to make a valuable point and, ultimately, waste everyone’s time.
That’s why it’s best to plan ahead. Even if you only write a list of bullet points instead of your entire speech, you’ll have a general idea of what you plan to cover. If you practice them enough ahead of time, then you won’t even have to look down to remember what your bullets are. (Glancing down repeatedly can make you look ill-prepared, so avoid depending on that sheet of paper in your pocket.)
It’s also critical that you rehearse your talk to confirm that it fits within the usual timeframe, covers important points in enough detail to be of use, and is relevant to the audience and their work.
For example, if you’re planning short safety topics for warehouse workers, ensure your talk is relevant to their tools, machinery, and working conditions. Resist the temptation to repeat a conversation you found online if it’s irrelevant to their day-to-day needs.
Make Eye Contact
Eye contact can help you engage your audience and hold their interest. You may feel uneasy about making eye contact even while discussing short safety meeting topics, particularly if you’re new to a workplace or dread public speaking. But try to meet your audience’s gaze while you deliver your talk casually, so they feel as if you’re speaking directly to them. Keep eye contact brief though. Listeners may be unnerved if you stare at them.
If this is easier said than done, consider speaking to people you don’t work with first. There are organizations that are designed to help you improve public speaking. One example is Toastmasters, which has more than 300K clubs in 149 countries. Whether it’s a corporate club or a community club, joining an organization with people at various levels of public speaking who can help dissect your strengths and areas of improvement can make you a better professional speaker in any setting.
They look for things like crutch words (um, uh, like, so) and pay attention to eye contact, but they do it in a constructive way. The entire point of their organization is to make everyone better. And the more practice you can get, the better you’ll be at short safety talks.
Act More Confident than You Might Feel
No matter who you talk to, speaking in public can be nerve-wracking. That doesn’t mean you have to look like it is. No one has to know you’re nervous if you don’t let on, especially if you do the following five things:
- Stand up straight.
- Keep your chin up.
- Speak clearly and loudly.
- Use your hands to make gestures to highlight important points or count off items in a list.
- Keep your hands out of your pockets.
Whether you practice in front of a public speaking group or your hallway mirror, get in the habit of looking at yourself while you talk before anyone else can lay eyes on you. If you can master these five physical tips, you’re already headed in the right direction.
Speak More Slowly than Usual
Do you find yourself rushing through talks to get them over with sooner? You could be making them harder to listen to at the same time.
It’s natural to speak quickly when you feel nervous or excited, but work on slowing your speech so that you take more time to think about what you’re saying. Your audience will also find it easier to keep track of your talk and take in your points.
Tell Stories to Engage Listeners
Add context to safety talks by telling stories from your own professional or personal experiences.
For example, if you want to emphasize how important it is to wear PPE when handling hazardous substances, that story about how a former colleague once burned a hand with acid can help to make the danger more real to your audience.
Keep any stories concise and on topic, though. Avoid telling stories for the sake of shock value.
Short Safety Toolbox Topics to Inspire Your Talks
Finding fresh topics for your toolbox talks can be tough week after week. You may struggle to identify relevant issues that workers need to know about, let alone know how to present them in an engaging way.
Here are 10 free short safety topics for work to help you the next time you need a little inspiration.
1. How to Recognize Risky Workplace Conditions
Help workers become more aware of dangers they face by educating them on unsafe environments.
Common issues to look out for include:
Workers wearing inappropriate clothing or incorrectly wearing PPE
Lack of concentration for safety regulations
Improper handling of dangerous machinery or tools
Lack of hygiene and housekeeping standards
They should have the training to recognize when specific oversights like the ones above create a risky situation. As a result, they may be able to warn others of the hazards and make decision-makers aware before an incident occurs.
2. How to Care for an Injured Person
Workers must treat injured persons with care to avoid worsening their condition or causing them further pain. But staff without first-aid training may try to move a coworker after an accident without realizing the danger they create.
Help staff understand how to treat an injured person, who to contact (e.g., a supervisor), and where to find first-aid equipment in an emergency.
3. What Causes Accidents
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 5,333 people died while working in 2019. Some of the most frequently violated OSHA standards relate to fall protection and machinery.
But the more that workers know about the causes of accidents, the better they can avoid them. Explore some of the common factors that lead to injuries or fatalities in the workplace.
4. How to Use Fire Extinguishers
Knowing how to use a fire extinguisher can empower workers to stop small fires before they get out of control. And they may not have time to check the instructions when every second counts.
Howcast’s quick video guide can make a good springboard for demonstrating how to use a fire extinguisher, discuss common mistakes, and ensure that workers know how to handle one properly in an emergency.
5. Tips for Handling Heavy Equipment Safely
Heavy equipment makes transporting large loads easier and safer, but proper usage is a must to minimize danger to the operator and others. Those who handle heavy equipment regularly should already know how to do so safely, but a dynamic safety talk could refresh them while educating newcomers.
Cover everything from staying alert at the helm to securing loads properly. A practical demonstration, with help from a seasoned operator, would help.
6. Storing Materials Safely
Improper storage of materials, such as flammable goods or toxic chemicals, can cause serious or fatal injuries. Workers who don’t realize the potential danger involved or take a complacent approach could put themselves and others at risk.
Summarize the threats associated with specific materials in your workplace and how to store them safely.
7. Climbing Ladders Properly
Covering ladder usage is particularly helpful if you’re looking for short safety topics for construction sites.
Team members may try to climb up or down ladders while carrying heavy loads, or may let themselves become distracted. They could hurt themselves and people below them if they fall or drop what they’re carrying.
You can cover how to set ladders up, signs of unsafe positioning, and other crucial tips.
8. The Dangers of Horseplay
Teams with a close bond and years of shared experience may occasionally engage in horseplay. This includes pranking or scaring colleagues, wrestling, or tossing items at one another.
It may not seem dangerous, but it can be distracting and lead to accidental injuries. That’s why horseplay belongs on your list of short safety topics for meetings, no matter how responsible the team may seem.
9. Risks of Weather
Teams working outdoors can be at risk during extreme weather: torrential rain, electrical storms, icy conditions. They may be dressed in unsuitable clothing, equipped with inadequate lighting, or at risk of illness from prolonged exposure to high or low temperatures.
But weather can affect indoor workers, too, if they become overly hot or cold. Severe rain may also lead to floods. Wind can blow objects over. The list goes on.
Workers may underestimate the risks that powerful weather can cause, so help them recognize how it might be a hazard.
10. Importance of Listening for Dangers
Some dangers may be heard before they’re seen, such as a power tool overheating or a piece of heavy equipment failing to stop when it should. Alert workers are likely to hear these hazards and take action, but others won’t—and could be in danger.
Perhaps they’re listening to the radio, talking to a colleague, or distracted by their phone. Whatever the cause, a failure to recognize sounds of danger could have severe consequences.
Create a talk that focuses on how workers can stay alert at work, and encourages them to pay attention to how machinery sounds when it functions properly. This may follow the horseplay and heavy equipment talks nicely.
These free short safety talks tips and ideas will help you promote responsible behavior in the workplace. Aim to deliver toolbox talks that grab workers’ interest and keep them engaged from start to finish—even if that’s just a few minutes. Remember to rehearse your talks, and act confident even when you’re not.
With a series of engaging short safety talks, you should be able to increase safety, decrease injuries, and encourage staff to take a greater interest in topics that affect their well-being over time.
How can I successfully implement new safety initiatives?
How do I get buy-in from management and workers?
What’s the best way to build trust and rapport?
Should EHS be a C-Suite position?
We explore these questions and more on the Safety Labs by Slice podcast. Check us out using the links below.