What is a toolbox talk?

Toolbox talk via tablet, construction

A toolbox talk is an informal discussion, usually based on a health and safety topic, delivered with the purpose of sharing information and refreshing prior knowledge and training.

Toolbox talks are sometimes referred to as ‘safety briefings’ or ‘site safety briefings’ in the construction industry or ‘team huddles’ in healthcare.

Some examples of toolbox talk subjects are COVID-19, manual handling, working at height, control of dust and asbestos awareness.

Further information about talks and how to write them can be found on the HSE website here and there are a number of free templates available online.

Here are a few template sources I found via a Google search:


What are the benefits of delivering toolbox talks?

Delivering toolbox talks helps to reinforce your organisation’s safety message and when delivered regularly and appropriately, can help to build a strong safety culture.

Reminding your workforce about safety issues and how to minimise risk will increase safety awareness and prevent complacency, potentially reducing accidents and injuries in the workplace. It could even save lives!

  • Builds a strong safety culture
  • Increase safety awareness
  • Refreshing knowledge
  • Prevents complacency
  • Helps to stay compliant with keeping workforce informed
  • Recognise and avoid unsafe conditions
  • Reduce injuries in the workplace
  • Promotes team working and communication.

How to deliver a toolbox talk/safety briefing

Healthcare team meeting

Toolbox talks are usually delivered by a manager, site foreman or supervisor but can also be delivered by HR or a safety representative.

Tips on how to deliver effective toolbox talks:

  • Keep it short and informal, more like a discussion than a lecture.
  • Deliver talks at regular intervals so that they reinforce the safety message and culture of your organisation.
  • Choose topics that are relevant to your industry. They could be used to inform workers of changes in legislation or to tackle problems that occur regularly.
  • At the beginning of the talk, explain the aims of the talk and why the topic is important.
  • Encourage discussion with your workforce – this gives them opportunity to contribute and feel valued and you an opportunity to check their understanding of the topic.
  • Use visual props where possible.
  • Wrap up at the end by reinforcing the important points of the talk.
  • Document attendance – toolbox talks add weight to the formal training you deliver to your workforce so keeping a record of these and the people who have attended is important.

Keeping Toolbox talk records

Keeping a record of the toolbox talks you deliver to your workforce is important. Not only are you establishing and reinforcing a positive safety culture, you’re refreshing knowledge and sharing safety critical information. Recording these talks not only allows you to identify what information needs to be delivered but also whether a person has missed a talk, giving you an opportunity to catch up with them at a later date or schedule a catch up talk. And, in the event of an incident, you have evidence available to prove that you have shared, updated and refreshed safety critical information.

How to record a toolbox talk

At the time of the talk, the person presenting it should ask the attendees to sign an attendance sheet. This should include the date and time of the talk and the title including a version number if appropriate. Adding a reference may also help to identify the toolbox talk template delivered.

Next, what to do with these attendance records? Recording these in a visible way is helpful and this can be done in a very similar way to recording training. If you need help to learn how to record training we have written a guide here.

First, list your workforce in a column on the left of your page and then in a row across the top list your toolbox talk templates. You might find it helpful to look at the roles your workforce carry out and identify which talks each person requires and then record this on your matrix. Once you have done this you will be able to work through the attendance records and record the latest date each talk was delivered against the attendee’s names.

Spreadsheets vs software

What about spreadsheets?
Spreadsheets are a much better solution than pen and paper, they can be stored digitally and shared easily online. Microsoft Excel is usually readily available on office computers along with other recent offerings such as Google Sheets.

However, when using spreadsheets we often don’t take into account the administrative burden and cost of resources to keep them populated and up to date. If used to create a matrix for toolbox talks, they will need constant monitoring and updating and collaborating with the people who deliver the talks, which is difficult.

In today’s busy workplace where roles often change, legislation changes and people come and go, your matrix will always be out of date somewhere. Spreadsheets are open to human error (I’ve entered data in the wrong cell before and I’m sure I’m not alone). They’re difficult to extract information from and sometimes it feels like you need a degree in Excel formulae to get stuff done!

Version control is also difficult to keep on top of when data needs to be shared across teams and departments. And, there’s always that fear of data corruption too.

Can purpose-built software provide a better solution?
Dedicated training management software can provide you with a much more efficient and intelligent way of gathering, collating and displaying reliable data. It offers much better security and ease of use and often it will have additional tools to help you find the data you need quickly. This helps you be proactive in achieving and maintaining training compliance. An annual or monthly subscription basis is the norm for such software.

Cloud software
Solutions like Moralbox suit organisations of any size and gives users intelligent, efficient and simple to use tools to manage training compliance, including toolbox talks management. Unique automated features such as toolbox talks recording and matrix save time and ensure accuracy and reliability of data. You can also collaborate with your management team and have them record toolbox talks in real time from a laptop, desktop or mobile device, collecting e-signatures and reducing the amount of paper your organisation uses.

Find out more about our software based training matrix

The easy to read, intelligent dashboard gives you complete awareness and visibility of your compliance status. You will also see statistics on toolbox talks so you can monitor the frequency of talks delivered. See the information you need to make sure your workforce remains training and toolbox talk compliant, at a glance.

With a weekly summary email and notifications you can have confidence and relax knowing you’re always fully aware of your organisation’s compliance status. No more trawling through out of date spreadsheets. No more sleepless nights worrying.
Your data is stored safe and secure in the cloud and can be accessed from your mobile device on the go. Share information with customers and auditors while restricting sensitive personal data.