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Make safety the topic of your next toolbox talk

by Theresa Whalen
CFA Farm Safety Consultant (486 words)

‘Toolbox Talks’, ‘Tailgate Talks’, ‘Safety Chats’ – are a brief, informal talk or meeting about a specific
subject relevant to your workplace. Make safety the focus for your next one.

These talks are typically a brief (2-5 minute) interactive discussion on something safety related and can
be done at the start of each day to remind employees before they go to work about the importance of
being safe.

“Plan • Farm • Safety” is the three-year theme of the Canadian Agricultural Safety campaign, which
was launched in March. Each aspect of the theme will be promoted over the next three years.

In 2010 the campaign promotes “Plan” with safety walkabouts and planning for safety. In the second
year, the focus will be on “Farm” including implementation, documentation and training. In the third
year, emphasis will be on “Safety” including assessment, improvement and further development of
safety systems.

When preparing for a toolbox talk, first choose a specific and relevant or seasonal topic that will catch
the attention of your workers. As well, state the expected outcome of the meeting – be it a newly
acquired skill, useful information that will allow them to perform their jobs better, or even just the
sense that they are actively involved in the operation of the farm or ranch.

For example, “Today, we’re going to discuss the new shop sander. At the end of this meeting, I want
you to understand how to operate it safely, and what personal protective equipment (PPE) is required
when you use the sander.” By providing a specific focus for the meeting, attendees know what to
expect and will be prepared to take-in the information.

To retain the worker’s attention, the talk leader must find common ground amongst all attendees. In
particular, close consideration must be given to such things as the language, topic and length of the
discussion. Think of potential cultural barriers such as language when developing your topic material.
Use widely accepted terminology that workers of all skill levels can easily understand. And keep the
meeting relatively short, to the point, and focused on the topic-at-hand.

The talk leader should adhere to the ‘See, Hear, Do’ method of instruction, in which they demonstrate
and explain something, then have workers apply the new information in a hands-on way. That way, the
leader gets the chance to confirm that all attendees understand the topic-at-hand, get feedback and field

Tailgate talk leaders should note the time, date and attendance of the meeting, along with the key points
made on the safety topic and any other relevant notes. This summary should be kept on file to
document the training experience.

Tailgate talks on safety are meant to be a positive experience. Talk leaders must strive to keep the topic
interesting, keep employees actively involved in the process, and foster a strong, successful learning
environment. For more information on this and other farm safety topics visit www.planfarmsafety.ca.

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For more information contact:
Theresa Whalen, CFA Farm Safety Consultant – T: (613) 822-0016 E: farmsafety@cfafca.ca
** Free photos and cartoons are available to accompany this article at www.planfarmsafety.ca.