Toolbox talks are easy ways to avert injuries that cost you money and downtime.
Toolbox talks take a matter of minutes, yet they have the power to prevent an injury or even save a life. When covering specific hazards, stick to those most relevant to the day’s work.
In four-season climates, winter poses unique safety challenges, so use some of your safety meetings to go over hazards related to snow, ice and cold and how to manage them.
Short on ideas? Here are 11 good topics to help fill the winter calendar.
Winter PPE. Multiple loose-fitting layers, hard hat liners, thermal socks, thermal gloves or gloves large enough to fit a glove liner and work boots with good tread are must-haves. Encourage workers to avoid wearing a cotton T-shirt as a base layer, since cotton absorbs moisture (read: sweat); a thin wool, silk or synthetic layer next to the skin is best.
Recognizing hypothermia and frostbite. Working outside in the cold, especially if it’s also wet or windy, can lower the body’s core temperate and/or freeze the skin. Workers need to know the risks and the warning signs of hypothermia and frostbite and what to do in the event of trouble.
The importance of warming up. Construction is physical work, and just as athletes should warm up before exercise, construction workers should, too, especially if they’re about to work in cold temperatures. If your company leads a morning group warm-up or stretch, remind everyone about it. If not, consider demonstrating a few good stretching exercises.
Carbon monoxide poisoning. Many pieces of fuel-burning equipment can emit this potentially deadly gas, including fuel-powered heaters and generators. If they must be used indoors or in confined spaces, ensure adequate ventilation and monitor CO levels with a CO monitor. Workers should wear appropriate PPE, which may mean a supplied-air respirator or a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). They should also know the symptoms of CO poisoning. Initial symptoms may include chest tightness, headache, fatigue, dizziness, drowsiness or nausea.
Fire safety. Temporary heating equipment and the fuel used to power it increases the risk of fire on a construction site. Make sure the site has an adequate number of fire extinguishers and that everyone knows where they are. Train workers on the procedure for reporting a fire and evacuating the jobsite.
Safe shoveling. If workers must resort to shoveling by hand, they should warm up first, then push the show instead of lifting it or scoop small amounts at a time, lifting with the legs, keeping the back straight and avoiding twisting.
Power line safety. Remind workers that contacting downed, energized power lines can cause electrocution. So can touching objects that are touching these lines.
Off-the-job driving. Simply getting to and from work can be dangerous in bad weather. Remind workers to drive defensively, leave extra space between themselves and the vehicle in front of them, avoid braking on slippery roads, steer in the direction they want the front of the car to go during a skid, and keep water, a shovel, a blanket, road salt or sand and other emergency supplies in the trunk just in case.
Fall protection. Falls are already the number one cause of death in construction, and slippery conditions only make them more likely. Remind workers to use a personal fall arrest system when necessary and to make sure their safety belts are properly tied off.
Three points of contact. Whether they’re climbing a ladder or getting in or out of the cab of their equipment, the “three points of contact” rule can help eliminate falls.
Near misses. Near misses can happen in any season — and when they do happen, they should be treated as warnings, since they are usually the result of unsafe conditions or behaviors. Tell workers why and how to report them.
Marianne Wait is an editor and writer who creates content for Fortune 500 brands.
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