As we head into the fall, I think its important to take a minute to reflect back on the busy summer season of 2013. As I was personally involved in several OSHA inspections this year, I noticed effective employee training became an issue in more cases than not. The importance of effective employee (whether in an effort to maintain a safe and healthy workplace or as a tool for a contractors defense with OSHA) continues to be at the forefront of an effective safety & health program. However, my experience tells me that contractors are still not maximizing the benefit of weekly employee trainings modules - otherwise known as Tool Box Talks. Just because you may be collecting signatures every week, doesn't mean you're getting the most out of the time spent conducting the trainings. It's important that contractors set their field supervisors up for success. Over the years, I've had several discussions with the work force and their challenges conducting Tool Box Talks. The following is a list of the most common concerns along with strategies designed to assist field supervisors in conducting effective training sessions.
Tool Box Talks are not designed to be very long. The reason they are done on a weekly basis is so they can be quick and easy. They should not take more than 10 – 15 minutes, at a time that is convenient. It is important to determine when the best time to do the Tool Box Talk is. Maybe it’s first thing in the morning, or maybe at lunch time. The other important factor could be the day of the week. Monday may be effective because you can discuss other objectives for the week. Another option could be pay day. You can hand out checks after the Tool Box Talk is complete. The important thing to remember is to work it around your busy schedule. Finding an effective time will result in an effective Tool Box Talk.
One of the best methods to getting your crew to pay attention is to get them involved. Often times, asking a member of your crew if they have had any issues with the current topic will not only get them involved, but it will bring a new dynamic to the training. Employees will respond to topics they can relate to. For example, if fall protection is the topic, maybe you ask an employee about the fall protection concerns on a previous jobsite. You can also ask them what they learned from it. Do not be mistaken, this is not designed to single anybody out. It is designed to increase participation. There is no need to put anyone on the spot. You simply want their ideas that will benefit the entire group and create a much more effective training.
It is unrealistic to discuss fall protection 52 weeks a year. There are other issues that need to be discussed. Just because a topic my not seem applicable at the present time, maybe it has been in the past. As a supervisor in charge of delivering the Tool Box Talk, it would serve you well to review the topic for the week prior to the presentation. This will allow you some time to identify a past situation that did deal with the current topic. You can also use the strategy listed above and solicit information from your crew. Keep in mind that this does not need to be more than 10 – 15 minutes. There are more hazards on a jobsite than 52 Tool Box Talks can cover. By combining your experience and a little thought ahead of time, applying any safety topic will simple.
Don’t lecture, Lead!! If you use the Tool Box Talk approaches listed above, you will never find yourself lecturing.
Do any these sound familiar to you?? In many cases, Tool Box Talks are the only ongoing training some employees ever get. It is worthwhile to identify new ways to increase the effectiveness of what has become standard industry practice. In other words, there is no sense in trying to reinvent the wheel, when all it needs is a little adjustment. Remember, your field supervision is the key to successful and effective Tool Box Talks.