Toolbox Talks

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What are Toolbox Talks and how can they benefit a Small Business

The water cooler is a place that co-workers have often spent time each day talking with each other about what is going on within the business, the community, and their personal lives. Toolbox talks are a way to extend these conversations in to the safety programs of many types of businesses. Primarily toolbox talks take place in the construction industry. Most businesses meet for a moment each day in the morning before heading out to their daily tasks. This is a great time to implement informal safety meetings that can help your business save in many different ways.

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Why should a business implement Toolbox Talks?

A business should implement Toolbox Talks because, if implemented correctly, these talks can limit the frequency and severity of workplace injuries. One primary way a business can save from implementing toolbox talks is by experiencing less injuries by employees on the job. Experiencing less workplace injuries increases productivity and keeps insurance rates as low as possible (especially workers compensation insurance rates). This is because the experience modification rating is the main factor insurance carriers use to determine what to charge a business for workers compensation insurance. The main controllable factor a business has over this rating is the loss report. The frequency and severity of workers compensation insurance claims is the main controllable factor in this rating. Implementing toolbox talks can go a long way towards limiting injuries and keeping the experience modification rating low.

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How to implement Tool Box Talks?

Informal Toolbox Talks are great opportunities for a business owner and key employees to prevent cutting corners, to talk about safety procedures, to remind employees about policies and procedures, to show employees how to use required safety equipment, and what the expectations are regarding safety. These meetings do not have to be long, but they do need to be intentional and well-planned. In addition, these meetings are a good time to get feedback from the employees working on the front line.

Prevent Cutting Corners

If implemented correctly Toolbox Talks can help prevent employees from cutting corners in an attempt to get a job done faster. Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden told many of  his teams “Be quick but don’t hurry.” This is a great example of how an employee should look at when it comes to how fast they should work on a daily basis. In an effort to prevent employees from cutting corners, toolbox talks can be used to give example of how an employee should work quick and examples of how an employee should not hurry.

Talk about Safety Procedures

Safety equipment is a prime example of what you can talk about during these meetings. You can spend a week talking about each type of safety equipment and when the employees should use each type of equipment. Proper use of safety equipment can limit repetitive use injuries, as well as more severe accidents.

Policies and Procedures

Policies and Procedures are crucial to any successful business. This is true when it comes to accounting principles, when it comes to customer service, and it is true when it comes to keeping your staff safe. Having a documented policy about what employees should do in each particular situation, is always the best way to keep everyone safe. This is especially true as a business grows in revenue and the number of employees. Not all situations are able to be planned for in advance, but that is no reason to prepare for what you can.

Required Safety Equipment

Toolbox Talks can be a great opportunity for key employees to talk about safety equipment. Talk about what types of equipment are required, what types of equipment are available, and how to properly use each type of safety equipment. This can help with simple equipment like glasses and belts to help with heavy lifting, but it can also be a time when you talk with all employees about other safety equipment they can benefit from.

Safety Expectations

Toolbox Talks can also be a time when key employees set expectations for safety throughout the organization. IF the leaders of an organization rarely talk about safety, the employees working in the organization will think about safety less. If safety is a regular topic of discussion, it is more likely for the employees of the business to make safety a priority.


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It only takes one mistake to result in a severe injury to one or a number of employees. One year when a business has a large claim or a number of small claims, can have impacts on their rate for commercial insurance for years to come. Typically your claims history sticks with the business for three additional years. This time period is what is taken in to consideration when determining a businesses experience modification rating. When this rating gets to a certain level, the insurance carrier deems the business unsafe. When an insurance carrier thinks a business is not safe, it will result in higher premium. In extreme cases, it can make it more difficult for a business to get coverage in the first place. Toolbox Talks can help to prevent this injuries in the first place and these talks can help your business in a number of ways.

Some accidents are avoidable. Some are not. If a business stays active long enough, workplace injuries are going to occur. Carriers look into the claims history of a business when they are looking into offering coverage to a business, what to charge for that coverage, and if they are going to offer credits or debits to entice the business to partner with the carrier. A well-documented safety program is one aspect that can help a business gain additional credits and debits. Regular Toolbox Talks can show an underwriter that the business is taking the steps necessary to limit the frequency and severity of claims.

When planning what topics employees will talk about during toolbox talks, it may be hard to find interesting topics on a regular basis. When leaders have a hard time coming up with topics, it may be a good time to check in with both the insurance agent and insurance carrier of the business. Most carriers have material in place to help businesses implement safety procedures.

Carriers want to insure businesses that file few if any claims. They are after all in the business of mitigating risk. They want to partner with business who share an emphasis on safety and limiting claims.

Example of a Toolbox Talk:

  • Focus on only one subject for each talk.
  • Choose a topic that is industry or department specific.
  • Be specific and limit vague statements.
  • Give concrete examples from incidents from the businesses past.
  • Leave time for comments and questions.


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