Sometimes a quick reminder of best practices is all it takes to prevent an injury.
Holding regular safety meetings, aka toolbox talks, is an excellent way to keep safety top of mind and remind workers how to protect themselves and others against specific jobsite hazards.
There’s no shortage of topics to choose from. In general, the more relevant they are to the work being done that day, the equipment being used or risks posed by the current weather (extreme heat or cold), the better. But covering the basics is also important, and fall is a good time to do it.
Below are eight smart topics to start with. Need more topic ideas? OSHA has plenty.
Ladder safety. Autumn rains can leave the ground wet and muddy, making it harder to place ladders securely. Plus, workers with wet or muddy boots are more prone to slipping as they climb. Fall’s gusty winds can knock ladders over. (Tying off the top will make it more secure.) Remind workers of these ladder safety tips.
Personal fall arrest systems. Workers should be wearing one if they’re exposed to a vertical drop of 6 feet or more. Use a safety meeting to give a quick refresher course on how to inspect these systems before use and how to make sure they’re fitted, rigged and anchored properly.
Hand protection. Cuts, punctures and chemicals pose hazards that wearing the right gloves can mitigate. In fact, gloves can dramatically reduce the risk of hand injury. Remind employees to use the right gloves for the task — and keep them on until the task is competed (rather than taking them off for minute and “forgetting” to put them back on). Find more about preventing hand injuries here.
Hearing protection. Workers often resist hearing protection because they don’t think they need it. It’s your job to remind them that oftentimes, they do. Very loud machines can cause hearing loss within minutes, but lower decibel levels can also cause damage over time. Explain to workers that they might not notice hearing damage until it’s too late. The time to protect their hearing is now.
Respirators and facial hair. With November comes Movember, when men grow mustaches to raise awareness for men’s health issues. But of course, facial hair can compromise a tight-fitting respirator’s seal. Remind workers of your facial hair policy. (And learn about which types of facial hair may be okay.)
Lockout/tagout procedures. Lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures are meant to keep equipment with at least one energy source (or two or more energy sources — like a generator that can run on fuel or a battery) from restarting or releasing stored energy while someone is performing maintenance or service on it. Remind workers why your LOTO procedures are in place and how to know who is authorized to unlock the equipment.
Silica dust management. Stricter OSHA standards for respirable crystalline silica mean workers need to use proper control methods when sanding, sawing, grinding or drilling materials such as sand, concrete, stone and mortar. They also need to use the right respiratory protection — and follow the proper procedures for cleaning up afterward. Read more about how to comply with the silica dust standards.
Evacuation procedures. When the alarm sounds, workers had better know what to do. Use a safety meeting to review your evacuation procedures. In particular, remind employees of the designated meeting place and why it’s so important to show up there (that is, because otherwise, an emergency responder may have to risk his or her life to go looking for you).