Workers have a safety talk
Safety and Security Mar 26, 2024

32 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 critical concepts without losing everyone’s attention? We have you covered with safety-in-the-workplace topics.

Safety Meeting Toolkit
Plan and conduct effective safety meetings for any industry with this comprehensive toolkit.

No matter what kind of work you do, it’s easy to become complacent, especially if you’ve spent most 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. If you find yourself going down this path, be wary because skipping steps and ignoring 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.

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 entirely on the talk’s content, ignoring its form. They may even forget that it’s their responsibility to engage people so they’ll absorb the information and be ready 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. 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.

Ask questions

One of the main reasons people ignore meetings is that they believe it’s a waste of time because they won’t learn 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.

Counter this tendency by asking questions. 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. These questions shouldn’t put people in the hot seat but, rather, allow your frontline workers to give feedback.

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 can lead to disengagement, making your presentation ineffective.

Bring some color to these talks with visual aids, humor, and analogies, keeping your people awake and receptive to the safety talk topic.

Reward engagement

It might sound diminutive, but who doesn’t like a mini candy bar? Try tossing some rewards out for those who engage in the talks by asking poignant questions, helping others understand, or adding their own thoughts. Gift cards or other incentives work equally well.

Watch this video to learn the fundamentals of compelling safety talks, discover new topic ideas, and get facilitation tips.

10 Safety Meeting Topics video link

Pro Tip: Keep a running list of safety-in-the-workplace topics. With it, you can not only prepare for upcoming safety talks but also integrate those meeting topics with broader emergency planning and preparedness efforts and involve various stakeholders. You can use the Topics Sheet from the Safety Meeting Toolkit to keep track of the topics you’ve gone through and what to cover next.

32 Safety Talk Topics

The safety messages you incorporate in your safety talks and training sessions 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.

Find more topic suggestions and talking points in the Safety Meeting Toolkit

External Hazards

“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 disturbingly common fire safety hazard. Promote fire prevention and avert workplace injuries by inspiring everyday accountability for safe electrical setup 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 many 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 unpredictable dangers on the road. It’s your duty to provide for their safety while they’re 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 to gain access to restricted systems or resources—have increased year over year. These aren’t “hacks” in the traditional sense. They 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 you’re looking out for their safety.

Get Your Safety Meeting Toolkit

Individual 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 use of seatbelts, life jackets, and oxygen masks before every flight, you need to remind workers of the proper use of their PPE and safety gear so they’re more confident relying on it during an emergency. Common PPE—hard hats, safety glasses, respirators, fall protection harnesses, and high-visibility vests—could be the things that prevent serious injuries or death.

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 topic of the day to remind everyone about signs of hazardous substance exposure and why PPE is important in these situations.

9. Tool safety

Some power tools and hand tools, from nail guns to chainsaws, have a natural level of risk associated with their use. You can gather your team at the beginning of a workday to remind them of the safety protocols for a particular tool and 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

Office workers might assume they don’t face any workplace hazards, but ergonomics should not be underestimated. Poor posture, inconveniently sized equipment, and other ergonomic problems can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, joint pain, and other safety concerns. 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 workers bend at the waist to lift, they risk seriously injuring their backs. Prevent these avoidable injuries by teaching proper lifting techniques as a quick safety topic.

13. Mental health & well-being

Mental health and well-being have increasingly become areas of focus across demographics, and this holds true in the workplace. Worsened by the isolation, loneliness, and despair many felt during the height of the COVID pandemic, people’s mental health is at serious risk. Show your employees you care and are there to offer resources and support.

14. Hearing protection

Exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels (roughly the volume 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 and how to use them properly ensures workers are prepared to prevent injuries.

15. Substance abuse

Substance abuse has increased in recent years. If someone is under the influence on the job, the likelihood of an accident skyrockets. Show employees how to recognize signs that a coworker is struggling, and offer treatment and support resources to those dealing with drug and alcohol use disorders.

16. Hydration

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 regular breaks for water.

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.

Safety Administration

“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 will fall flat if employees aren’t reading the messages. Take some time to remind everyone how these notifications work, where they come from, and what to expect. You can also confirm all employees’ contact information as a follow-up action item.

You can use the Follow-Up template from the Safety Meetings Toolkit to communicate after your safety talks.

2024 Employee Safety Report
Learn what your employees actually want when it comes to their safety at work and what that means for your business.

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 similar accidents or near misses in the future.

20. Importance of 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. 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 prioritizing safety first.

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.

23. Labeling potential hazards

Labels for potential hazards like slippery floors or unexpected steps can go a long way in keeping everyone aware and decreasing slip, trip, and fall accidents. Some workplaces may also have dangerous chemicals or zones that are unsafe to enter when equipment is turned on, and warning labels can promote situational awareness.

General Safety

“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

24. Situational awareness

No matter the environment and type of work, situational awareness is perhaps the single most significant habit that can keep employees safe. Hold a short safety talk to gauge how situationally aware your employees are. This evaluation will help you plan for more in-depth training to guide them in increasing awareness of risks they may face.

25. Ladder safety

There’s a reason ladders are associated with bad luck: They’re a deceptively deadly tool we frequently rely on. Proper ladder setup, use, and oversight can avoid painful and costly mistakes.

26. Forklift safety

Working with heavy machinery, including forklifts, can be dangerous without the proper training. Safety talks about safe forklift driving and handling are critical for those working with or even near these tools.

27. Workplace violence

Workplace violence is increasingly common, particularly in service industries and healthcare. Talk with your employees about the types of workplace violence, warning signs, and prevention steps they can take, including how to identify and report potential violence through an open, non-punitive channel.

28. Emergency exits

Every indoor workspace should have clearly marked emergency exits as part of a fire evacuation plan. That plan requires you to regularly review these emergency exit routes with your team, especially if you’re working in a new, unfamiliar location or in case one or more exits become blocked in an emergency.

29. Heavy vehicle safety

Heavy vehicles—such as forklifts, trucks, cranes, and other heavy-duty machines—have the potential to cause damage to people and property. Make sure all workers are aware of the dangers and how to keep themselves and others out of harm’s way.

30. 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, try turning it into a game to see who has the best fire extinguisher aim.

31. 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 are associated with these risks.

32. Carbon monoxide safety

Dubbed the “silent killer” because it’s undetectable by humans, carbon monoxide is deadly and you must monitor for it, especially in the presence of flammable gasses, exhaust, and heaters. Ensure 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 confidently, without disruptions.

Safety Meeting Toolkit

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