Toolbox talks (sometimes also known as ‘safety moments’, ‘tailgate meetings’ or ‘safety briefings’) are informal safety meetings that focus on safety topics related to the specific job, such as workplace hazards and safe work practices. Meetings are normally short in duration and are generally conducted at the job site prior to the commencement of a job or work shift. It is one of the most effective methods to:
- refresh workers' knowledge
- cover last-minute safety checks
- exchange information with the experienced workers.
Toolbox talks are also intended to facilitate health and safety discussions on the job site and promote your organisation’s safety culture.
In our series on facilities management, we’re taking a look at the toolbox talks you’ll hold for a range of ergonomic issues, namely:
- office safety
- ergonomic safety
- proper lifting procedures
- avoiding back injury.
Toolbox talk: Office safety
The purpose of this toolbox talk is to enable you to keep a clean and safe office environment.
A common problem in offices is a lack of space. But this shouldn’t be an excuse to improperly store boxes, copier paper, etc.
- Keep storage of combustible materials (e.g. cardboard, paper) to an absolute minimum, as they pose both a trip and fire hazard.
- Never store combustibles near electrical outlets.
- Place heavier objects on lower shelves.
- Ensure all shelves are sturdy and able to bear the load.
- Never block hallways, doors and stairwells with stored office material.
- Ensure clear access to electrical panels, fire extinguishers, AEDs, and fire pull stations.
- Schedule a few days a year to go through all your paper files and purge unnecessary documents.
- Remove unnecessary objects/supplies/books from shelving units.
- Clean and sanitise your workstations as needed.
Group discussion topics
- Assess your workstation and correct all possible hazards.
- Is anyone in the office experiencing discomfort at their workstation?
- Understand all evacuation routes from your office and where all the safety equipment is located (fire extinguishers, first aid kits, AEDs, etc.).
Toolbox talk: Ergonomic safety
Every part of the body is affected by the ergonomic design of the workplace. Factors that contribute to ergonomic design include:
- the amount of repetition involved with the job
- the duration of applied force from pushing, pulling, lifting or gripping
- the amount of force exerted or the weight of the load
- a person’s posture, reach and grip positions
- heights and distances to working surfaces, materials and supplies
- age, physical stature, weight, physical
Injuries resulting from poor ergonomic design are sometimes acute (such as sprains), but are often cumulative (such as carpal tunnel syndrome). Follow the safety tips below to help improve the ergonomic performance in your work area.
- Stretch the muscles several times a day before starting work. Statistics have shown that the majority of injuries occur after coffee or lunch breaks – this is because many people think of stretching at the start of the work day, but don’t realise their muscles have shortened during a break and need to be stretched again.
- Know your physical Don’t attempt to perform activities when the work environment is not suited to you.
Back and legs
- Have materials and supplies raised to waist level so bending is minimised. This will help avoid lower back sprains and pulled hamstrings. If bending is required, bend at the knees and use the leg muscles to raise and lower the bod
- Avoid work conditions where the shoulder blades are This is common in office environments and tight working areas.
- Move keyboards away and down to a location where the arms are relaxed, elbows comfortably at sides and forearms parallel with the floor.
- Always ask for help if loads are too heavy or awkward.
Arms, wrists and hands
- When working with power tools or other handheld objects, avoid situations where the wrist is
- Carry loads close to the body, with a clear line of sight to the travel path. Avoid carrying loads away from the waist or reaching for extended periods.
- Avoid using tools that vibrate continuously or aggressively, or require prolonged pinching or
Eyes and neck
- Computer monitors should be at eye level and the neck should not be tilted up or Use a document holder for prolonged keyboarding.
- Ensure there is proper lighting in the work areas and computer monitors are positioned to minimise eye strain (ideally, without a window behind the monitor).
Toolbox talk: Proper lifting procedures
Workers have begun to realise that by applying safety procedures into their everyday work routines they can avoid the pain and suffering involved in injury. One of the ways that other workmates have been successful is to follow the simple 4-step plan when lifting materials:
- Plan the lift
By planning a lift, you can completely eliminate the risk of injury. If possible, use mechanical means to lift, move, and lower the materials, such as forklifts, loaders, vehicles (transporting materials), dollies, wheelbarrows, wheel attachments on equipment, cranes, come-alongs, pry-bars, etc. If it is not practicable to use mechanical means, ask for assistance to help lift or move the load, or break the load down into smaller lifts. If this still is not practicable, ensure that you are capable of safely lifting the load, and ensure there are no trip or slip hazards along the path on which you plan carrying the load, then use proper lifting procedures.
- Make the lift
- Rule of thumb: look up as you lift.
- Face the load, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with one leg ahead of the other.
- Ensure you have a good firm grip before lifting.
- Lift with your legs, and not your back, and keep your back as straight as possible.
- Lift smoothly without jerking.
- Move the lift
- Avoid reaching out. Handle heavy objects close to the body. Avoid a long reach out to pick up an object.
- Avoid unnecessary bending. Do not place objects on the floor if they must be picked up again later.
- Avoid unnecessary twisting. Turn your feet, not your hips or shoulders. Leave enough room to shift your feet so as not to twist.
- Do not be tempted at the last moment to swing the load onto the deck or shelf by bending or twisting your back; it could end up being your last heavy load.
- Lower the lift
- The same technique used for lifting the load should be used for lowering the load.
- Watch your fingers for pinch points when lowering the load.
Toolbox talk: Avoiding back injury
The key to avoiding back injury at work is to always plan ahead. Know how to handle a situation before it happens. That way, when something does come up, you will be able to make the best possible decision based on the new circumstances.
What to do when you see a load that could pose a risk of injury
The safest way to handle the situation is to use whatever form of mechanical you have available to you. Always use machinery or equipment as your first defence against back injury at work.
Ask a fellow crewmember to help you lift the load. As a rule of thumb, a worker can safely lift 50 lbs (22.68 kg) without serious concern of back injury. Therefore, if a piece of equipment weighs 140 lbs (63.5 kg), three workers should be available to lift the weight. All crewmembers should also watch out for one another, and should offer to help if they see someone else trying to lift something that is too heavy.
Discuss the situation with your supervisor. Never hesitate to talk to your supervisor if you feel that lifting a load could be dangerous. Any reasonable supervisor will listen to your concerns and find a safer way of handling the situation. Remember, no one is going to thank you if you injure yourself.