29 Key Toolbox Talk Topics For Construction In 2020 [Download]

Coming up with new toolbox talk topics for construction businesses can prove tricky after a while. This is why it is handy to have a cheat sheet available! If you think you may have exhausted all possibilities when it comes to themes for your informal safety meetings, take a look at this list, find a subject, download an example talk, and think about how it relates to your workplace.

Why Are Safety Talks Important in Construction? 

Regular short safety meetings at the start of a day are a great way to remind workers of their obligations and the best practice within your company in a relaxed learning environment. They refresh knowledge, keep workers up to date with the latest developments, and ensure that safety is always front of mind as your employees begin work for the day. In 2018, 21.1% of the 4,779 worker deaths occurred in the construction industry, according to OSHA statistics, which proves exactly how important it is to hold regular safety talks in the construction industry. The agency found that the majority of accidents fell in four distinct groups and, based on this, it outlined the “Construction Focus Four Hazards” — the most important toolbox talk topics.

29 Key Toolbox Talk Topics For Construction (Free Download)

Here is a list of important toolbox talk subjects for construction, along with downloadable files that you can use for your organization. 

The Construction Focus Four

1. Fall Hazards & Protection

 Whether someone works at the top of skyscrapers or just a few feet off the ground on a building site, a fall can be fatal. Around a third of deaths in the construction industry come as the result of a fall on job sites. This is why it is important to remind employees of the types of fall protection equipment available for different tasks, how to maintain it, and how to inspect it before starting work. 


2. Protection From Falling Objects (Struck-by Hazards)

Besides trying to prevent injuries from dropped objects, you should include a topic on protecting oneself from falling objects in a toolbox talk. How can workers prevent objects from falling and how can they ensure they are at the lowest possible risk of suffering an injury from a falling object? 


3. Excavation (Caught-In -Between Hazards)

Excavation has one of the highest fatality rates in the construction industry, with crushing caused by collapsing work one of the biggest risks. Other risks include electric shock from hitting power cables, poor quality air, toxic fumes, and water bursts. Your talk should focus on how to prevent these risks from developing into an on-site incident. 


4. Electrical Safety

Not only should you provide toolbox talks for trained electricians on site, but you also need to guide non-electricians on all aspects of electrical safety. From hazards such as using electrical equipment near water to lock out tag out procedures, there are a plethora of subjects you can cover to keep workers safe. 


More Construction Toolbox Topics

5. Working at Heights

Preventing falls is a key area of focus for toolbox talks on working at heights, too. In addition, another risk factor is dropping objects onto people below from height. It is important for workers to understand how to protect themselves and others on-site, as well as the public. 


6. Confined Space

A confined space is any working area where the entrance or exit is difficult to move through or restricted in some way. The Department of Labor reports that 92 workers die in confined spaces every year. 

Confined space is so important that Jordan Barab named his entire blog after it. When it comes to toolbox topics about confined space, it is key to cover the risks, including poor oxygen supply, toxic gases, exposure to flammable substances, or other hazards that are amplified even further by the restrictions placed on the worker’s escape in the event of a problem. Workers in these environments can benefit from regular training on risk management directed specifically at these situations. 


7. Working on a Platform

There are different types of aerial work platforms and it is important to stress the necessity of approaching their use in different ways to ensure safety on site. Advice on inspections and operating procedures for both man lifts and scissor lifts help workers continue to use these helpful pieces of equipment in a safe manner. 


8. Fire Safety

Helping employees understand how fires occur, the hazards they can cause, and the ways in which they can extinguish them is vitally important. A fire can wreak havoc on a construction site, delay projects by weeks or even months, and, of course, lead to fatalities. So, be sure to remind your staff where to find fire extinguishers and fire drill processes in the event of a fire.


9. Asbestos Awareness

There are a huge number of risks involved with inhaling asbestos dust, from lung disease to cancer. However, when working in the construction industry, there will be times when employees have to come into contact with it in the work environment. When renovating or demolishing old buildings, it is a constant threat. This means that your workers should know how to identify asbestos and the measures they can take to protect themselves as they carry out their work. 


10. Slips, Trips, and Falls

More workers are injured in the workplace through a slip, trip, or fall than any other reason. More than a fifth of falls lead to more than 31 days of work missed per year, showing exactly why it is important to keep the message of safety and slip, trip, and fall prevention in workers’ minds. 


11. Forklift Safety

Although forklifts are essential to construction sites, they can also prove to be a hazard. Uneven loads, overloads, careless driving, and a number of other factors can all come into play when considering the workplace risks of forklifts. Make sure you discuss maintenance, operation, and any other subjects relevant to your site. 


12. Aerial Lift Safety

There are a number of risk factors involved with aerial lifts, such as fall hazards, electrical hazards from overhead cables, and the potential to tip the vehicle when using it. In order to prevent accidents from happening, your talk can look at planning, operation, and vigilance while using aerial lifts in the workplace. 


13. Good Housekeeping

OSHA lays out standards for housekeeping in its regulations, and all construction sites must adhere to them. Of course, you will have to tailor this good housekeeping toolbox talk to your specific workplace rules, as every site will have its own policies on what is stored where. In any case, this is a great opportunity to remind your staff of their duties to leave the site in a neat and tidy manner, where everybody knows where each essential piece of equipment should be and can be confident that they won’t walk into an unnecessary hazard. 


14. Manual Handling

You should talk to your workers about prioritizing mechanical handling at all opportunities, as a safer alternative to manual handling. They should learn about the considerations they must make before they handle the articles in question and the techniques they should adopt for the safest practice.


15. Face Protection 

There are many elements to face protection toolbox talks. You can concentrate on the eyes or the face in general. Impart knowledge on protecting these sensitive features during the types of tasks workers will generally undertake in your workplace. You can offer insight on PPE, prevention of accidents, and first aid in case of an incident.


16. Repetitive Injuries and Ergonomics

Help your employees recognize the early symptoms of repetitive injuries and provide them with the resources and knowledge they need to take evasive action. Also, stress the importance of reporting any issues that may be due to ergonomics in order to allow the business to remedy potential causes. 


17. Lightning Safety

With most construction work taking place outdoors, it is imperative that workers can spot the signs of an incoming storm. They should also know the best precautions to take if they can find shelter as well as if they can’t, and what they should or shouldn’t do while waiting for the storm to pass. 


18. Ladder Safety

One of the key elements of ladder safety is choosing the correct ladder for the job. Workers should be able to make informed decisions in order to remain safe while using ladders in the workplace. Talking about the basics of ladder use in safety discussions and considering ways to keep safe on-site while using ladders are important topics for your construction toolbox talks. 


19. PPE Use

OSHA insists that you need a PPE program in place if personal protective equipment is necessary at your workplace. In order to conform to this recommendation, workers need to know about the general types of PPE in use across industries, as well as those construction-specific pieces that they will need to use in their job. 


20. Vibration

Workers should be able to detect the early symptoms of hand-arm vibration syndrome and know what steps to take next in order to reduce the risks of it becoming acute. Being able to understand the vibration rating system is another key skill for anyone using equipment at work that can cause such issues. 


21. Scaffolding 

More than 4,000 workers every year suffer a fall as a result of a safety failing to do with scaffolding. With this in mind, refreshers on how to properly secure and use scaffolding, along with the various regulations that you must meet, are integral elements of your toolbox talk on scaffolding. 


22. Hand Tools

Hand tools can form the basis of a number of different types of toolbox talks. You could discuss the ergonomics of the tools, potential injuries that they can cause, and also guide your staff on how to select the correct hand tool for the task they are undertaking. 


23. Near Miss Reporting

In order to impress upon employees the need for participation in near miss reporting, you can host a toolbox talk about the Accident Pyramid that shows the relationship between near misses and incidents in which someone is hurt. This will help staff see how important their role in exposing risks is. 


24. Sprains and Strains Prevention

Sprains and strains are responsible for around a third of injuries in construction. This is why it is important to remind workers of the policies you have in place to prevent such issues and the many ways they can minimize their risk of suffering from them during their regular tasks. 


25. Yard Hazards

Yard hazards can refer to any potential safety issue in the general construction site. Talks on this topic range from creating safe working zones to the dangers of silica, as well as how to patrol the traffic on-site in a safe manner. 


26. Hazard Communication / GHS

Hazard communication reduces the risk of chemical-related incidents by ensuring that labeling meets a strict standard. This way, everyone on-site can tell just by looking at a container what it holds and how to deal with it accordingly. Both the implementation of this program and the understanding of the system for hazardous substances are both key learning areas for these talks. 


27. Harness Inspection 

The detail of what you need to inspect to ensure your harness is fit for purpose is rigorous and necessary for avoiding workplace safety incidents. Employees should be well versed in looking for wear and tear in all areas of the harness, from the labels to the webbing. They should know how to clean and store it safely, and how to tell if lanyards are still in an adequate state to complete their purpose. 


28. SRL Usage

SRL stands for self-retracting lanyard, which forms an integral part of working at height, preventing injury and death. However, when not properly used they can pose a risk to the worker, so it is imperative that they are up-to-speed with the correct usage and maintenance requirements. 


29. Guardrail Safety

If you want to drastically reduce the risk of falls from wall or floor openings, then guardrails are an important piece of the puzzle. Employees should know when and how to install them, where they should be located and what specifications they should meet. 


Bonus: Video Toolbox Talks

An alternative to giving a toolbox talk yourself is to show your workers a video on the topic. Watch these videos to gain inspiration for your next talks:

5 Steps to a Successful Toolbox Talk For Construction

  1. Make it Relevant – Your talk should be relevant to your industry and even your individual workplace. By focusing on the details your workers see every day, you make it chime with them and help them see how this is helpful to them and their colleagues in the real world. Either make up examples they would recognize or use real events to inspire your talk. 
  2. Keep it Brief – Long-form lessons are for safety courses. A toolbox talk is usually a quick catch-up, packed with relevant information and light on filler. So, aim for short workplace safety topics, get to the point quickly and let the audience get on with their work shift. 
  3. Make it Positive – No one wants to start the day with a gloomy, foreboding warning. Talk about how you can all make the site safer, rather than concentrating on how dangerous it can be. And, why not, try some funny safety moment ideas.
  4. Interact – Ask questions, punt for stories, include a demonstration. People are more likely to engage if you capture their attention and punctuate the learning with aspects other than a long monologue. 
  5. Check Everyone Understands – This is vitally important. Before everyone disperses, find out if they took everything in. Ask for questions or issues that the talk raised. There is no point in giving a talk if no one remembers what you were talking about. 


Q. What is OSHA’s Focus Four?

A. OSHA’s Focus Four are the four hazards that form the basis for the majority of workplace incidents. They are: 

Fall Hazards
Anything that could cause a worker to lose balance and lead to a fall. 
Unsecured scaffoldingUsing items other than ladders for climbingUnprotected roof edge
Caught-In or Caught-Between Hazards
When a worker is caught in or between two objects or two parts of a single object.
Excavation collapseCaught in rotating equipmentCaught in unguarded parts of a machine
Struck By
When a worker is injured by contact with an object and the impact causes the injury.
Hit by dropped toolsHit by a vehicleHit by a low-hanging fixture
Electrical Hazards
Exposure to a source of electricity that causes injury or fatality.
Contact with overhead power linesLightning strikePoorly maintained power cords

Q. How do you write a good safety briefing? 

A. A good safety briefing should be short and to-the-point. You need to make sure everyone understands what you are saying, so you need to consider the requirements of those for whom English is a second language. Keep a consistent message throughout to make sure you make your point and look for examples that speak to the audience you are talking to, whether it is something that they experience or that concerns them. To get a better idea, check out these safety moment of the day examples.


These toolbox talk topics for construction will help you grab the attention of your workers, refresh their memories, and set them up for the day to be the safest they can be. Coming up with fresh ideas every day is tough, but remember that there are so many ways to talk about safety in construction and these subjects are just the jumping-off point for your successful toolbox talks. Much of it is common sense, but we all need help to inspire us sometimes.

References & Further Reading