Ruthann Ellis, manager of Tribco’s Department of Field Training & Development, recently discussed how to “Stop Toolbox Talk Burnout” in the 2021 edition of Building Chicagoland Magazine, Chicagoland Associated General Contractor’s annual publication for local contractors and suppliers in the commercial construction sector.
In the article, Ruthann advises crew leaders who may feel fatigued by having to repeatedly cover safety issues in weekly—or even daily—meetings to think like an athletic coach when looking for ways to keep employees engaged during Toolbox Talks. Like athletes, workers must repeatedly train and run through drills until approaching jobsite tasks in a safe manner becomes a reflex. The article provides the following five coaching tips:
1. Prepare. Select a topic that’s relevant to the current work or conditions. Practice reading the written document out loud so you can measure your pace and tone and won’t stumble over words. Think about potential questions or challenges employees may present and be ready with answers.
2. Start with the “Why.” Adults typically must know WHY they need to know something in order to internalize information, accept it and then use it.
3. Be brief. Provide enough detail to let workers know what you want them to do. Most people can only stand to listen for three minutes unless they are part of the conversation.
4. Involve the worker in the Toolbox Talk. Provide listeners opportunities to engage actively. Examples include hand-raising polls (“Raise your hand if … ”), asking crew members to deliver portions of the talk, “follow-along” demos (“We are going to inspect our harnesses together … ”) and asking open-ended questions.
5. Follow up! During the day, stop and ask workers what the Toolbox Talk was about. If they can’t remember, remind them. Ask them why they think the information is essential. Stay positive and thank them.
In closing, Ruthann reminds crew leaders they must set the example and show they are dedicated to keeping everyone safe. Your team will respond in kind.