The Purpose of Toolbox Talks

Although a five-minute huddle doesn’t constitute a comprehensive safety program, there are many reasons why it’s important to conduct regular Toolbox Talks. An effective Toolbox Talk will address one issue and give specific details that provide a clear understanding on the safest manner in which to use a machine, tool or perform a particular task. In addition, these group conversations are excellent opportunities to keep employees abreast of changes in regulations, safety procedures, equipment, personal protective equipment, and job assignments and responsibilities.

On most job sites, there is variation in experience, and many workers may approach the same task in a different way based on what they’ve learned over time. Routine Toolbox Talks ensure all workers are on the same page and understand that certain actions should always follow standard practices and procedures. These meetings reinforce safety training.

Toolbox Talks should always consist of two-way communication. Workers can ask questions and provide feedback on the topic of the day. If done well, these meetings help employees understand their company’s culture and send the message that everyone’s safety is important. Toolbox Talks should focus on techniques that keep workers safe and reinforce that we should never sacrifice safety for increased productivity. This consistent messaging will improve the outlook of those on the work site — reminding them that personal safety always comes first. Use your Toolbox Talk time as a powerful tool to coordinate the thinking and actions of everyone on your work site.

New OSHA Construction Standard – Part II

Last week in our Toolbox Talk about the new confined space regulation (29CFR 1926.1204 Permit-Required Confined Space Program), we defined and listed examples of confined spaces we commonly find in construction activities. Briefly, a confined space is one that:

  • Is large enough and configured so that an employee can bodily enter it;
  • Has limited or restricted means of entry and exit; and
  • Is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.

Confined spaces can present many hazards or conditions that are hostile to your well-being. This week, we’ll cover steps to keep employees safe while working in a confined space.

Once the competent person has identified a confined space, it is the responsibility of the employer to do the following:

  1. Implement the measures necessary to prevent unauthorized entry.
  2. Identify and evaluate the hazards of the space before allowing employees to enter.
  3. Develop and implement the means, procedures and practices necessary for safe entry and operations in the space, including, but not limited to, the following:
    1. Specify acceptable entry conditions;
    2. Provide each employee authorized to enter (or his/her authorized representative) with the opportunity to observe any monitoring or testing of the space;
    3. Isolate the space and physical hazard(s) within the space; and
    4. Eliminate or control atmospheric hazards by purging, inerting, flushing or ventilating the space. [Note to paragraph §1204(c)(4): When an employer is unable to reduce the atmosphere below 10 percent lower explosive limit, the employer may only enter if he/she neutralizes the space to render the entire atmosphere non-combustible and the employees use personal protective equipment (PPE).]
  4. Put monitoring procedures in place that can detect an increase in atmospheric hazard levels in sufficient time for employee(s) to safely exit the space should the ventilation system stop working.
  5. Provide pedestrian, vehicle or other barriers as necessary to protect employees in the space from external hazards.
  6. Continuously verify conditions in the space are acceptable throughout the duration of the authorized entry.
  7. Ensure that employees have the appropriate PPE needed to work in a confined space with a hazardous atmosphere.

Remember: Manage or mitigate the hazards of a confined space before you enter. Your safety depends on it.