29 Short Safety Talks: Topics & Ideas to Boost Engagement
Leaving conversations about safety to quarterly meetings and occasional safety training means safety skills and awareness atrophy over time. Want a way to refresh key concepts without losing everyone’s attention? We have you covered with safety talk ideas.
No matter what you do, it’s easy to become complacent over time, especially if you’ve spent the majority of your days performing familiar tasks on repeat. It can be tempting to cut corners and forego best practices in the interest of time, productivity, and effort. Those who find themselves going down this path should be wary, however, because those skipped steps and ignored rules could result in an avoidable emergency.
One way to prevent these lapses and complacency among your team is to use short safety talks to remind everyone of proper procedures and prepare them for new hazards and variables they’ll encounter during the workday.
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What Are Safety Talks in the Workplace?
Workplace safety talks are short, digestible, pre-work meetings about a particular safety topic that informs the work people are doing that day. These talks are most effective when kept short, focused, and memorable so workers can easily apply the advice right away and recall it over the long term.
Sometimes known as “safety toolbox talks,” “safety briefings,” or “safety moments,” safety talks can cover any number of topics as long as they’re related to worker and workplace safety.
How to Make Short Safety Talks Engaging and Effective
Safety leaders tasked with devising short safety talks tend to focus enritely on the talk’s content, ignoring its form. They may even forget that it’s their responsibility to engage the people that they’re talking to so they’ll absorb the information and be able to put it to use.
Consider ways to maintain safety engagement and interest in your content. This is partly about what not to do: For example, an uber-professional tone could work against you. After all, your safety talks won’t do much good if your audience falls asleep two minutes in. It’s also about active strategies to get people involved in the discussion and to get them to buy into the significance of their everyday safety efforts.
One of the main reasons people ignore meetings is because they feel like it’s a waste of time that won’t teach them anything new. This can become a self-fulfilling prophecy; if they don’t think they’re going to learn anything new, they’re going to check out and miss the important information you’re imparting.
Counter this tendency by asking questions of your audience. When people realize they have an opportunity to speak their minds, they’re much more likely to become personally invested in the topic at hand. Remember that these questions shouldn’t be an opportunity for you to put people in the hot seat–don’t ask them to quote your spiel word-for-word–but instead it can be an avenue for you to solicit feedback and suggestions from your frontline workers.
Inject some humanity
When talking about safety practices, many speakers tend to become very formal and clinical in their language because they want to convey the seriousness of the topic and avoid distractions. Unfortunately, this is also a one-way ticket to snoozeville for your workers.
Visual aids, humor, and analogies are great ways to bring some flavor to these talks, keeping your people awake and receptive to what you’re talking about.
It might sound diminutive, but who doesn’t like a mini candy bar? Try tossing some rewards out for those who engage with the talks by asking poignant questions, helping others understand, or by adding their own thoughts. Gift cards or other incentives work equally well.
29 Safety Talk Topics
The topics you decide to incorporate into your safety talks are entirely up to you and should be inspired by your work objectives and conditions. However, if you’re looking for some ideas to get you started, here are our suggestions.
“The world is changing very, very fast…to be as flexible as possible–that’s what we’re doing every day.”
—Helmut Spahn, Director of Safety, FIFA
1. Electrical safety
Improper electrical distribution is a deadly hazard in the workplace. Electrocutions are one of the most common causes of injuries and fatalities on construction sites, and daisy-chained extension cords and power strips are a potent yet disturbingly common fire safety hazard. Promote fire prevention and avert workplace injuries by inspiring everyday accountability for safe electrical setups and operation.
2. Hot work safety
Heat stress prevention is key in many fields, especially those that require outdoor work during the summer months. It’s so important that OSHA is working on official regulations to require heat safety measures from certain employers.
3. Cold work safety
Cold weather can be deadly when preparedness efforts fall short. Share cold-weather safety tips with your team before a day of working in the cold, and set them up with a buddy system so all workers have someone who can look after them.
4. Defensive driving
Workers who commute or those who drive for work can be faced with myriad dangers on the road. Since they’re doing so in order to work for you, it’s your duty to provide for their safety as best you can while on the road. Defensive driving skills are one of the best ways to make sure your team members get to their destinations safely.
5. Anti-phishing awareness
Phishing attacks—where bad actors send fake messages claiming to be someone else in order to gain access to restricted systems or resources—have increased year over year. These aren’t “hacks” in the traditional sense–they only rely on basic social manipulation, not crafty coding or software vulnerabilities. Reminding workers how to spot phishing attacks can save your organization a lot of time, money, and trouble.
6. Active shooter awareness
While active shooter events are rare, they are becoming a greater strain on Americans’ mental health. Hold a safety meeting to go over your active shooter response plan, and reassure employees that you’re looking out for their safety.
“Safety is way more than compliance…it’s a moral imperative that we send people home to their loved ones.”
—Scott Gerard, VP of Environmental Health and Safety at Moss Construction
7. Personal protective equipment (PPE) review
Just as flight attendants remind passengers of the proper usage of seatbelts, life jackets, and oxygen masks before every flight, it’s a good idea to remind workers of the proper use of their PPE so they’re more confident relying on it during an emergency. Common examples of PPE include hard hats, respirators, fall protection harnesses, and high-visibility vests.
8. Particulate matter safety
Depending on the job site, small bits of liquid or solid material can be suspended in the air, which can wreak havoc on human bodies if inhaled. Some of these materials, like asbestos, are particularly dangerous. Use a safety talk to remind everyone why particular PPE is important in these situations and signs of hazardous substance exposure.
9. Tool safety
Some of the power tools and hand tools used by physical workers, from nail guns to chainsaws, have a natural level of risk associated with their use. Gathering your team at the beginning of a workday to remind them of the best, safest way to use a particular tool can reduce those risks.
10. Personal health
An employee’s health is usually impacted by their private life more than it is by their work environment. Taking time to encourage healthy sleep and exercise habits, as well as attending annual medical check-ups, can help keep your workforce in peak condition.
11. Office ergonomics
Those who work in office settings might wrongly assume they don’t face any workplace hazards, but one might be lurking around them all the time: bad ergonomics! Poor posture, inconveniently sized equipment, and other ergonomic problems can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, joint pain, and other problems. The work should fit the worker, not the other way around. Remember to include remote workers in these talks as well.
12. Proper lifting techniques
We’ve all been there—we go to pick something up and underestimate its weight. When you bend at the waist to lift, you feel something pop in your lower back. Prevent these easily avoidable injuries by teaching proper lifting techniques during one of your safety talks.
13. Prioritize mental health
Mental health has been an increasingly prevalent problem among every demographic, and this holds true in the workplace. Worsened by the isolation, loneliness, and despair many have felt since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, people’s mental health is at serious risk. Show your employees that you care and are there to offer resources to support them.
14. Hearing protection
Exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels (roughly the loudness of an electric blender) can cause permanent damage to workers’ hearing. And while OSHA requires organizations to provide hearing protection equipment, a safety talk about why they’re necessary as well as how to use them properly can help prevent injuries.
15. Substance abuse
Substance abuse has increased in recent years. If someone’s under the influence on the job, the likelihood of an accident skyrockets. Focus on showing employees how to spot a struggling coworker as well as offering treatment and support resources to those who are dealing with drug and alcohol use disorders.
No matter what kind of work you do, no matter where you do it, there’s always one thing your people absolutely need: water. Make sure everyone knows where they can find cool water and that they have the right (and the responsibility) to take water breaks. While we’re talking about it, why don’t you take a nice drink of water right now?
17. First aid refresher
First aid training is too detailed and intensive to perform during a 5-minute safety talk, but those few minutes are enough to fortify first aid skills among your employees. Potential areas of focus include a reminder of where all first aid equipment is located, the signs of a stroke, or an overview of the proper CPR compression technique.
“Part of being an effective emergency manager…is helping [workers] understand why it’s important to plan.”
—Jeffrey Trask, Risk Manager at ISO New England
18. Communication review
Even if you have the best emergency notification system, good message templates, and an awesome reporting workflow, your hazard communication efforts are going to be for naught if employees aren’t reading the messages. Take some time to remind everyone of how these notifications work, where they come from, and what to expect of them. This is also a great time to confirm everyone’s contact information.
19. Accident reporting
While you can do a lot to make accidents less common, it’s very difficult to eliminate them entirely. While you work toward that goal, consider a short safety talk to review standards, rigorous accident reporting procedures, and after-action reports. These will help prevent those same accidents or near misses in the future.
20. Empowering work stoppages
Some emergencies are made much worse by the “bystander effect.” When a worker feels that they don’t have the authority to stop an unsafe activity, they likely won’t step in when something goes wrong. They might instead opt to wait for a supervisor to make the call—but during an emergency, seconds matter. Hold a meeting to make sure everyone knows that they are within their right to stop any dangerous work and will not be penalized for doing so.
21. Emphasize safety culture
Your organization’s safety culture is the aggregate of attitudes, behaviors, and practices regarding safety. It’s key to developing a safe, productive, and caring workplace, but it can only be accomplished with continuous effort. Morning safety talks can keep up your momentum in this area.
22. Workplace access protocol
Who’s allowed on the work site? Who isn’t? What about clients, vendors, and guests? Take a moment to remind your team about proper access control, such as not holding the door open for unapproved people and carrying their keycard badge on them at all times (if applicable).
“If workers aren’t following specific protocols, very drastic things can happen not only to them but to their coworkers.”
—Diana Warden, Director of Safety and Security at the Dallas Zoo
23. Situational awareness
No matter what work you do, where you do it, or even whether or not you’re at work, situational awareness is perhaps the single most significant habit that can keep you safe. Hold a short safety talk to gauge how situationally aware your employees are and give them guidance on increasing that awareness.
24. Ladder safety
There’s a reason ladders are associated with bad luck: they’re a deceptively deadly tool that we frequently rely on. Proper ladder setup, use, and oversight can avoid some painful and costly mistakes.
25. Emergency exits
Every indoor workspace should have clearly marked emergency exits as part of a fire evacuation plan. However, it’s a good idea to review these emergency exit routes with your team, especially if you’re working in a new, unfamiliar location or if there’s a chance one or more exits could become blocked in an emergency.
26. Heavy vehicle safety
Heavy vehicles—such as forklifts, trucks, cranes, and other heavy-duty machines—have the potential to cause damage to people, property, and more. On a day when one such machine is present, make sure all workers are aware of the dangers and how to keep themselves and others out of harm’s way.
27. Fire extinguisher use
Portable fire extinguishers are ubiquitous and extremely effective at protecting people and property from fire damage, but only if they’re used properly. When holding a short fire safety talk about correct fire extinguisher use, why not make it into a game and see who has the best fire extinguisher aim?
28. Confined space awareness
Some confined spaces have respiratory hazards, engulfment hazards, electrical dangers, or any number of factors that make them more dangerous than your average crawlspace. These are often restricted by posted signage. Make sure your team knows who is and isn’t permitted in these spaces and what the signage looks like. Trenching work, pipework, and other assignments encounter these risks frequently.
29. Carbon monoxide safety
Dubbed the “silent killer” because it’s undetectable by humans, carbon monoxide is deadly and must be monitored for in the presence of flammable gasses, exhaust, heaters, and other sources. Ensure that your employees know the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning and how to double-check that CO monitors are working properly.
Every Day Can Be a Safe Day
Carving out small chunks of time to regularly review digestible safety topics goes far beyond just preparing your employees for individual hazards. By making these short safety talks a familiar fixture of everyone’s days, you ingrain the idea that safety is always the number one priority. But it’s not safe for safety’s sake—it’s expressly to protect your business, its operations, and its people so everyone can work in harmony and peace.