Toolbox talks, conducted on a regular basis (sometimes daily) by industrial organizations, can be a great way to raise safety awareness on the job. Too often, however, they are held for the sake of being held. There’s often a lack of direction and goals in these talks. One way to give them more meaning and direction is to connect them to your required compliance training.
Over the past few weeks we’ve looked at some ways to make your required compliance training much more meaningful and memorable. If you’ve followed my advice so far and have decided to use a game format to enhance levels of engagement and participation during that training, then you’re already off to a pretty good start. But it’s not enough to leave it there. We have to reinforce it in some way, and nothing does that like hands-on application.
Enter the toolbox meeting! If you are already holding toolbox meetings in some form or another on a regular basis, this will simply be a matter of changing the focus of one of those meetings per month. If you are not currently holding toolbox meetings, this is a great reason to start them. Not only is it an ideal venue for reinforcing your compliance training, but it’s also ideal for raising safety awareness on a regular basis and developing safety-leadership ability among your front-line employees.
So where to start? Let’s assume the scenario I gave at the beginning of this series; namely, (1) that you are spreading out your compliance training over the course of the year, and (2) that you are addressing one topic per month during your monthly plant-wide or facility-wide meetings (haven’t started those yet? Start here!).
Once you’ve established that pattern, it’s then just a matter of scheduling an associated “themed” toolbox meeting later that same month. For instance, let’s say this month’s compliance topic is “Hazard Communication,” and you’ve already conducted the necessary training during your plant-wide meeting. The following week you would hold a series of smaller “breakout” toolbox meetings (scheduled well beforehand!) that focuses on that same compliance topic, but in a more personal and focused way. All those toolbox meetings don’t have to be held in the same day or in the same time period, so long as they are all held that week and every employee is able to attend at least one of them.
The toolbox meetings themselves should be small (ideally no more than a handful of people—10 at most!) to maximize involvement. They should be short (no longer than 15 minutes), and they should be focused on skills building.
Using “Hazard Communication” as the month’s topic, each toolbox-meeting leader would be tasked with leading a toolbox meeting that narrows the topic to their specific work area – how does “Hazard Communication” apply specifically to us? Be creative with this. Provide the toolbox-meeting leaders with examples of what they could do, but give them the freedom to do it their own way.
One example of a creative toolbox meeting came from a supervisor at one of my client’s manufacturing plants. Prior to holding his meeting he took some ordinary bottles and other containers, filled them with water and hid them at various places in the work area.
To start his meeting he instructed his work cell (about five people) to look around the area to see if they could find anything out of place. Once they found the containers, he asked,
“What’s the problem with what you’re seeing?”
They responded that since the containers had no labels so they weren’t sure what was in them.
“What do we do when we find something like that?” he asked. They responded that they would need to find out the contents and put a label on the containers.
After walking them through the process of how to report and turn in unlabeled containers, he then asked them how they would go about creating a label for each container. Since none of them knew, he led them to the area computer, had one of the attendees “drive” the process as he walked that attendee through the steps of accessing the online SDS sheet for that chemical and printing a label for the container. Meanwhile, all the other attendees gathered around the computer to watch and help the “driver” decide on next steps.
The end result was that the work-crew learned something new about how “Hazard Communication” applies specifically to them, while at the same time acquiring actual skills around that compliance topic.
If your toolbox meetings can meet the multifaceted objective of (1) reinforcing that month’s compliance topic in a personal, engaging and interactive way, (2) finding a narrow and specific application of that topic for each specific workgroup, and (3) building actual skills around that topic, you will have succeeded in making your required compliance training much more meaningful and memorable.
That’s it for this edition of Recordable INSIGHTS Newsletter. Until next time.
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