Have you ever seen this at a safety toolbox talk meeting? A supervisor giving his morning TBT (Toolbox Talk) with his crew, and as he is talking, there are still a few stragglers walking up to the area where he was giving the toolbox talk. The supervisor is saying something like this “Ok now, you all know what you’re doing, and you know what can go wrong, so wear your PPE and work safe, now go to work.” Is that the proper way for a supervisor to deliver a TBT? “No.” Is this how you want your supervisors giving their TBTs to their employees? Can we say no, here as well? What did the employees that showed up late to the talk get out of that TBT? Let us just say, “not much”. For that matter, what did any of his employees get out of that TBT? Can we agree on this, “very little”?
So, what is a proper TBT? Well, that is going to depend on who you ask. For some, the example above would be ok. For others, it would not. For some like me, a TBT is a generic safety talk that can cover many different safety concerns, such as PPE safety, confined space entry hazards, work at heights safety, slip, tripe and falls, as well as a thousand other safety topics. For some, a TBT will be about the job for that day. I would disagree with the later, if that TBT was not conducted at the point of the job at hand, or if it did not cover the local hazards of where the job is taking place. I would rather that the supervisor conducts a general safety TBT, then conduct what I call a work-front hazard identification discussion. (Discussion meaning, that there is a two-way flow of information between the supervisor and his employees about the hazards). A work-front hazard discussion would be where the supervisor will cover the work steps of the job and the hazards of the job following a RA (Risk Assessment) for the work. Each work step and the hazards will be discussed, how to abate them and any other hazards of the area not in the RA.
The TBT process should be just that, a process, if you want to promote safety on you site, plant or office. TBT’s should be thought out ahead of time, planned for, written out a head of time, sign-in sheets provided for attendees and supervisors that have been trained how to give them. TBTs should be monitored by management and the safety dept. Supervisors who display an unenthusiastic approach to TBTs should be either coached, trained and motivated to deliver effective TBTs. TBTs can be written for each day or written for each week. Supervisors can be given by management a TBT guideline to follow, or a booklet of TBTs to use each day. That is all going to depend on how TBTs they are used within your organization. Are they done daily, are they generic, or they job specific or are they given weekly? TBTs are a great way to talk-up / promote safety at the workplace, but only if we use them the way they are intended by your organization and if our supervisors give them correctly and effectively with proper two-way communications with their employees each and every day.