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How to Select your Toolbox Topic

posted by Todd Jenkins, CHST October 2016

Identify the Topic

The more specific the training topic is to what is happening on the project the more effective the training will be. Talking about trenching and excavation when your project is in finishes may not be the most engaging way to spend your Monday morning.

  • Topics should be specific to your project
  • Activities that are coming up on the schedule
  • Activities described in the scope of work
  • Equipment and/or tools that will be used
  • Job-specific training requirements
  • At-risk or non-compliance issues discovered during inspections
  • Accident and Incident trends

Topics from the Scope of Work

I have seen scope written in many ways from many different contractors in my career. All typically communicate the same thing, what is in the box and what is not in the box. Looking at figure 1 we can see that our scope of work includes slab on grade, providing stone sub-base & vapor barrier and grading. From this we know that we will have heavy machinery onsite, frequent materials deliveries and hazards related to concrete work. Appropriate weekly training topics include crushed by equipment, equipment inspections, silica, or concrete burns.

Figure 1 Scope of Work

Topics from the Schedule

Most contractors maintain some form of a look-a-head schedule, for those that do not, a master schedule will work. The tasks that are scheduled to start make great topics. If you look at figure 2 below you will see that mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) rough-in and doors and hardware are scheduled to start around the same time. A common hazard that all the trades would face is manual material handling. Strains and sprains, back injury prevention, proper lifting techniques and general manual material handling would be appropriate for project wide weekly safety meeting topic.

Figure 2 Schedule

Safety Data Sheet Review

A best practice is to review one Safety Data Sheet (SDS) each week for a material that is used regularly or that will be used for an upcoming task. You do not necessarily need to review the entire SDS. The important things to review are where the SDS Binder is located, Sections - 2, 4, 7 and 8 on the SDS. A brief discussion of emergency procedures is also a good idea at this time.

Figure 3 Safety Data Sheet Section 4 – First Aid Measures

Where to get them

You can download relevant topics from the web, write the talks yourself (see the format included at the end of this document) or buy them from outside sources. For a list of free toolbox topics visit www.constructionprojectsafety.com/training.

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