Toolbox or tailgate meetings are brief meetings, usually done at the start of a work shift, that focus on the work for the day and review generic or task specific safety concerns that may require discussion. I have found that implementing the following three tactics can help to ensure that the toolbox meeting will to keep your listeners focused on the material.
Understand your audience – What do your people relate to? How can you effectively relate your content to the people that are participating in the meeting? What motivates them to work safely? Understanding these items will help you to get your audience to pay closer attention to your messages and create an emotional connection to the material that you are presenting by personifying information that is reviewed.
Keep it brief, but informative – Following the suggestion above, it is important to understand that your audience is getting ready to start their work day. They may be easily distracted by thoughts of planning their day or with biological needs (waiting to eat breakfast, not yet having their morning coffee, etc.). Keep in mind that you are presenting a toolbox talk, not a corporate level annual review meeting. It can be difficult to maintain the balance of communicating information and keeping attention, but understanding your audience’s motivators and distracters will help.
Make it topical – Try to make the information that you present relatable to the work that your group performs. For example, most safety professionals receive alerts or bulletins from other industries that may have little to nothing to do with our company’s area of expertise, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be valuable. If you are presenting a safety alert focusing on an injury caused by a failed lockout/tagout or botched energy isolation on a pressurized system to a group of workers in a woodworking shop, relate the content by asking questions about the material. “What went wrong? How did the worker get injured? When might we use an energy isolation to protect workers? How do we make sure that people are aware of the equipment that has been isolated?”
Not all workplace safety material will captivate your audience and keep them entertained for the duration of your meeting. This is especially true with detailed compliance related information (which is incredibly valuable, but can be dry). But hopefully these few ideas will help to streamline your toolbox meetings and keep your group focused.
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