Blog Post

Disadvantages Of Toolbox Talks & How To Make Them Better

Written by Lee Glynn
May 10, 2023


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We discuss the disadvantages of paper toolbox talks and how to make toolbox talks better for everyone

Toolbox talks on a construction site can be the difference between a day without incident and a day with tragedy.

Run a toolbox talk poorly, forget certain subjects or miss a site area and you’re potentially liable for damages if something goes wrong.

We know there are plenty of disadvantages of toolbox talks. You don’t have time to create them as much as you should.

So we decided to improve them, streamline them and make paperless toolbox talks better with our construction forms app builder designed to make your life easier.

But first, here are some common questions answered.

Is there a legal requirement to carry out toolbox talks?

There is no legal requirement to carry out toolbox talks on a daily basis, but you do have a duty of care to your employees to provide adequate health and safety training.

In the UK, The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act is what you need to follow in terms of safety at work. It applies to all workplaces, all employees and all employers.

You don’t have to give toolbox talks but the law does say you need to provide adequate information and training. Toolbox talks are the quickest way to get that information and training across, early in the day, ahead of the tasks ahead.

This will of course depend on your geographic location. But some states in America require meetings for legal reasons.

For example, The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OR-OSHA) standard for safety meetings requires that construction supervisors/companies hold a safety meeting at least once per month, as well as at the beginning of every project lasting more than one week (OR-OSHA, 2019). Several states such as Connecticut, California, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Washington have similar standards (OSHA, 2016).

Do digital toolbox talks actually improve compliance and safety?

Yes. By 19% in some cases!

A study by Springer showed that sending Safety Toolbox Talks by text message to Residential Construction Supervisors increased Safety Meeting Compliance. In fact, the study showed that due to the ease of paperless, digital toolbox talks being delivered by text message and push notifications there was a 19% increase in supervisors’ reported compliance with a state-specific safety meeting frequency standard.

The study backed up what our customers already know – that mobile phone-based delivery of toolbox talks is an accessible and feasible way to increase compliance with safety meeting frequency standards at residential construction firms.

With forms2 your site safety reps can send out push notifications and text messages directly from their construction forms and data capture app!

Construction workers using mobile data capture apps and digital toolbox talks to solve the disadvantages of paper toolbox talks

Do I really need to do toolbox talks on construction sites?

It’s a good idea to do so. As it’s the easiest way to get training across without sending staff away from site on courses and you can also highlight changing conditions a lot faster with a 5-15 minute chat in the morning.

A toolbox talk is the quickest way to share essential information with your team regarding potential hazards on the construction site. It could be the causes of slips, trips, and falls, or power tool safety as well as how to prevent accidents at the worksite. Another advantage of toolbox talks is their ability to reinforce existing knowledge. If your team has been to a health and safety course in the past, these discussions can help refresh their memory. Toolbox talks are beneficial for everyone involved, creating a safer and more informed work environment.

Again, the same study showed that simply sending out text message reminders helped increase safety by 19% and increased construction supervisors’ compliance with safety meeting standards.

This means creating a construction form app and digital toolbox system for safety checks, with something as simple as a text or a push notification would result in getting supervisors to use the digital toolbox talks system!

Why are Toolbox talks important?

Toolbox talks are more than just a way to discuss any incidents that have happened, go through training on “how NOT to pick up a box in a warehouse” or reiterate safety protocols. They’re an essential part of gaining compliance, ensuring work authorisation has been achieved (safe to work documents etc.) and ensuring the right person is trained to do the job you want them to do! They’re also great for identifying any risks through feedback with your workers.

In short, they’re the most effective way to educate workers and legally cover yourself in the event of an incident.

But they can be boring…

We know this because we’ve helped companies build literally thousands of digital toolbox talks and mobile forms that increase engagement, provide audit trails and are a LOT more interactive and useful than paper options.

Below we’re going to explore the disadvantages of toolbox talks, how to write them way better and deliver a successful toolbox talk, digitally, which ensures you’re compliant and working safely. There’ll also be some great tips on making them a lot easier on everyone!

We’ve discussed how to write toolbox talks faster, but let’s look at some of the major pain points you have.

The Disadvantages Of Toolbox Talks

There are 5 main problems with toolbox talks that our customers come to us to solve. They can lack engagement, they can take up too much time if you’re unprepared, and language barriers can cause issues, plus the lack of follow-ups means that workers may be sitting through the same toolbox talk from a week ago.

The good news is digital toolbox talks can solve a load of those problems and disadvantages.

Here’s some further pain points we know all too well.

1. Lack of Engagement

If the toolbox talks are not engaging and interactive, workers may become disinterested, bored and not pay attention. This can drastically reduce the effectiveness of the talks and mean you fail to get buy-in from your workers.

2. Limited Time

Toolbox talks are usually (hopefully) brief and conducted at the start of the workday or during breaks on site. However, construction sites run tight deadlines, so the limited time available may not be sufficient to cover all the relevant safety topics. If you’re rifling through paper documents trying to get to the right section, taking roll call and collecting signatures, this can take precious time away from getting a job done.

3. Inadequate Preparation

If the person leading the toolbox talk is not adequately prepared, the talk may not be effective. The presenter may lack the necessary knowledge or experience to cover the topic comprehensively or may be using incorrect or outdated information especially if it’s from a binder from 10 years ago!

There can also be significant differences in safety between residential and commercial construction to prepare for too.

4. Language Barriers

Construction sites often have a diverse workforce, and language barriers can make it challenging to communicate safety information effectively. Although it’s preferential that all toolbox talks should be conducted in a language that all workers can understand, this is not always possible if the speaker only speaks their native language and a translator is not available.

5. Lack of Follow-up

Conducting toolbox talks alone is not enough to ensure safety on a construction site. There must be a follow-up meeting, feedback session, test or sign-off in place to ensure that workers understand and implement the safety measures discussed in the talks. Lack of follow-up can result in workers forgetting or ignoring important safety information. Finding the paper document with the date, time and name of employee, plus the training they received is difficult and you can’t always carry a binder with you onsite.

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How to Make Toolbox Talks Better and More Effective

Solving these disadvantages of toolbox talks can be easy.

So now let’s flip those disadvantages, and show you how to create better toolbox talks, digitally.

Digital toolbox talks can solve many of the problems associated with paper-based toolbox talks. Here’s how digital toolbox talks, as opposed to paper forms, solve those disadvantages!

1. Increased Engagement – SOLVED

Digital toolbox talks can be more engaging than paper-based ones because they can incorporate multimedia elements such as videos, images, and animations. This can make the content more interactive and appealing to workers, increasing their engagement and attention.

With a mobile construction form app, you can create easy-to-fill-in site forms and then form a digital, cloud-based site safety file for each project so you can ensure the right talks are going to the right people, thus increasing engagement!

2. Faster Time To Delivery – SOLVED

Digital toolbox talks can be accessed at any time, which means workers can review the content on their own time, allowing for more flexibility in training schedules. Additionally, digital toolbox talks can be structured in short, bite-sized modules, which can be completed in small increments during breaks or downtime on the job site.

You can even automate daily reporting from the likes of Excel, Google Sheets and other ERP systems and make your entire site safety system digital, allowing for faster transfer of data from the field to the office.

3. Preparation – SOLVED

The benefit of digital toolbox talks compared to paper toolbox talks, is that they can be pre-built (or even recorded) so you’re ready to go at a moment’s notice. Additionally, digital toolbox talks can be prepared by subject matter experts and reviewed by multiple people on your team, ensuring that the content is comprehensive and accurate.

You can also set up an API to directly pull information from any health and safety sites like OSHA, HSE etc. so you’re always up to date. You can use data connectors to connect specific data, training and information to your app too! Which is a great benefit of using data connectors and data integrations in business apps.

With your construction mobile apps, you can create mobile forms for construction site working and speed up paperwork by about 50% or even use our construction toolbox meeting templates and speed it up by 90%.

You can also prepare Toolbox talks for residential construction or commercial construction, using specific need for each sector.

4. Language Barriers – SOLVED

Digital toolbox talks can be translated into multiple languages, making it easier to communicate safety information effectively to a diverse workforce. Text can be translated via our construction site business app, or you can embed videos in different languages in your toolbox talks.

You can also use the forms2 platform to build your construction site safety apps in the language you need them to be in, thanks to our multi-language feature. You can read more about that in our create a mobile app in multiple languages blog.

5. Lack of Follow-up – SOLVED

Digital toolbox talks can be recorded and tracked, allowing supervisors to monitor which workers have completed the training and who may need additional follow-up. In a nutshell, you’ve got better information coming back from site.

Mobile data capture apps for construction will make follow-ups mandatory, as you can actually set reminders.

You can set up your health and safety app to log when someone has completed the training. If they have, it goes to a spreadsheet, data source, or other ERP system so you can choose from preferred contractors or workers. Additionally, digital toolbox talks can be reviewed multiple times, reinforcing the safety information and ensuring that workers have a better understanding of the content. This is just another type of low code/no-code business app you can build with forms2!

6. Store a Record – SOLVED!

Using a construction site forms app enables you to locate all site forms in one location, effectively assign forms to individual sites for multiple users, and ensures better information and data capture coming back from the site. This streamlined approach enhances reporting processes within the business, facilitates sign-offs, and allows for efficient record-keeping by tracking jobs and job history, ultimately improving follow-ups and overall project management.

Our business app builder platform can store all your toolbox talk results online and on your own back office systems. With online results you get easier access to mobile BI, easier searching, easier storage, statistics, reports and more!

And these are just a few of the benefits of digital toolbox talks!

Ok, now you know what to do and what NOT to do. It’s time to digitise your paper processes and increase safety onsite with a construction forms app you can build in a few hours, not months!

Discover the power of forms2 for construction site management with a drag-and-drop business app. Streamline processes, enhance communication, and improve record-keeping with our low-code/no-code platform.

Don’t miss out on a more efficient and organised worksite – try forms2 today and transform the way you manage your projects!

14-day trial. No Fee. No obligation. Try today.

The easiest mobile form builder for the construction industry

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Why use forms2 for your digital construction site toolbox talks?

The forms2 platform also allows you to easily store and access all of your toolbox talk forms in one digital place thanks to easy connection to your tech stack. This makes it easy to review past talks and track progress over time, achieve compliance and maintain records for insurance purposes.

Additionally, you can use the platform to generate reports and analyse data to identify areas of improvement and ensure that your team is meeting safety standards.

If you’re wondering: should I upgrade to paperless toolbox talks, the answer is a resounding yes if you want safer sites.

Should toolbox talk be documented?

Yes. Toolbox talks should be documented and stored for legal, auditing and health and safety reasons. Always document your toolbox talks regardless of whether or not certain standards require documentation of safety training. We answer some of the most common FAQs for toolbox talks in construction, too.

By recording the information about the safety topic, the trainer/supervisor, the date, and names of the workers at the talk, you cover yourself in case of an incident, but can also check whether or not certain employees have already received training if you have to go over the talk with another group. Toolbox talks are a safety matter in their own right, so practise what you preach!

What is an example of a toolbox talk?

An example of a toolbox talk might focus on the importance of wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). The talk might cover the types of PPE that are required in the workplace, how to properly use and maintain PPE, and the potential consequences of not wearing PPE.

Best Health and Safety Resources and Tips

Here are a few of the most useful sites for staying up to date on health and safety regulations :
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides several resources for employers
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides a number of resources for construction site safety
The Centre for Construction Research and Training (CPWR)

What is a safety topic of the day talk?

A safety topic of the day is a short, informal safety talk that focuses on a specific safety topic. This could be anything from the importance of wearing personal protective equipment to the use of lockout/tagout procedures. You can monitor these topics using mobile forms for construction.

The Benefits of Using a Safety Topic of the Day

Using a safety topic of the day is a great way to keep safety interesting – you’re not going over the same points each day! It’s also a great way to make sure your workers remain up-to-date on the latest safety regulations and protocols relative to their sector.

It keeps safety top-of-mind and keeps employees aware of any changes in safety regulations – everyone is on the same page! Finally, it breaks safety up into chunks, as one day you can talk about PPE and the next, you can talk about Lone Worker Protection.

What is the most important objective during a toolbox meeting?

The most important objective during a toolbox meeting is to ensure that all employees understand the relevant safety regulations and that they are taking the necessary precautions to stay safe on site.

But it’s also important to get “buy-in” from your workers as you can demonstrate or educate on what can happen if they DON’T follow protocols through case studies, incident reports or media.

Read more about common FAQs for toolbox talks for construction.

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