Workplace safety is a key concern for any business, and it is the responsibility of every employer to ensure a safe and healthy work environment and culture. The importance of workplace safety is highlighted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which reported 4,764 work-related fatalities and about 2.7 million nonfatal workplace injuries in the U.S. in 2020.
Regular safety training sessions, safety meetings, and safety talks that raise awareness about relevant safety topics for work can play a key role in fostering a safe working culture. And although work in the manufacturing or construction industries come with more inherent risks, it is important that workers in all industries (even those with desk jobs) are alert and aware of any risks to their safety and well-being at work.
This article will cover some of the popular ways to keep safety at the forefront of people’s minds, and recommend some important safety topics for work that you can cover during those meetings.
Types of Safety Talks
There are a few different kinds of talks that leaders give their team about safety, based on the circumstance. They include:
These are events held specifically to discuss hazards in the workplace. They are usually formal and last for about 20-45 minutes, involving multiple formats like presentations and group discussions. During these safety meetings, leaders usually cover various safety topics for work in depth and train their employees according to the organization’s safety program.
Since they take time and are formal sessions, workplace safety meetings are not held every day or every week. Instead, they are held in specific circumstances such as during onboarding of new team members, following a mistake or workplace incident, or when industry safety standards change.
Toolbox talks or safety moments are usually informal, brief talks (about 5-10 minutes) that convey a safety message of the particular day or week. These are like a daily or weekly huddle, imparting general safety tips or addressing a specific hazard that workers may face during that particular day, week, or project.
These can cover a variety of topics and provide a regular opportunity for employees to discuss safety issues with their coworkers. Since they promote regular conversations around safety, they play a major role in cementing a safety culture in the workplace, whether it’s an office job or a risky job site.
10 Important Safety Topics for Work
Topics during any safety talk, be it a more formal safety meeting or a routine toolbox talk, can vary. They can include anything from general safety tips to covering specific risks around an ongoing project or updating the team on new COVID-19 protocols. Here are some ideas of safety topics for work that you can talk about during these meetings.
1. Ergonomic and Workplace Stress
Ergonomic stress, be it in a comfortable office with climate-controlled conditions, or in physically demanding jobs like manufacturing, can cause long-lasting and painful conditions. Employees should be aware of the risk factors related to sedentary jobs (which cause problems like carpal tunnel syndrome) or strenuous physical labor such as lifting, assembling, or pulling (which could cause chronic body aches and pains or even permanent musculoskeletal disorders).
Employees should be made aware of proper ergonomic practices and should regularly stretch and exercise to avoid such injuries.
But physical stress is not the only thing that leaves a mark. Work-related stress, depression, burnout, and anxiety can also cause occupational health issues. Communicating stress management techniques to your employees and creating a work environment that promotes asking for help and open communication about workplace stress promotes a healthy work culture.
2. Slipping, Tripping, and Falling
Slips, trips, and falls can occur in any industry, and they occur more often than one might think. They can cause minor to severe workplace injuries including bruises, cuts, and fractures, as well as permanent impairments like damage to the spinal cord.
So, even if it may seem obvious, educating employees on fall protection is helpful. This can include identification of the most common slip, trip, and fall hazards such as slippery floors, poor lighting, and unsuitable footwear, and how to reduce risk by wearing nonslip footwear and using wet floor signs.
3. Drug or Alcohol Abuse on the Job
The abuse of drugs or alcohol at work can affect employees’ physical and mental state, significantly increasing their risk of injury. They also face a wide range of other problems such as loss of productivity, absenteeism, accidents, and, in high-risk jobs, even fatalities.
Opening a conversation about all the hazards tied to substance use would encourage employees to take responsibility in building a safer, drug-free environment. This makes it an important topic to address in a safety meeting or talk.
4. Workplace Violence
Workplace violence is disturbingly common in the U.S., with the National Safety Council reporting over 20,000 injuries due to workplace violence in 2020. This kind of violence can be a result of employees, customers, or visitors engaging in disruptive behavior. Violence includes threat of violence, harassment, or even homicide.
Safety talks should address this issue, cover strategies to prevent violence such as recognizing risk factors, and outline the policies and procedures your organization has to deal with such violent acts.
5. Using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPE, the specialized gear (clothing and equipment) that workers use to protect themselves from hazards, is especially important in industrial worksites.
If your workers deal with hazardous chemicals, heavy construction equipment, high heat or electricity levels, loud equipment, etc., they should know what PPE they need to be safe on the job (such as hard hats, industrial gloves, eye protection, and more). They should also know how to use, store, and maintain the protective equipment.
It would also be useful if they know why they need such protection and the risks associated with not using the relevant PPE.
6. Electrical and Fire Safety
Both electrical and fire hazards exist in all workplaces, whether they’re IT offices or job sites handling heavy machinery and power tools.
Electrical incidents can be highly damaging — live wire contacts can cause major electric shocks, short circuits and overheated wires can cause fires, and an arc flash can result in burns or even blindness. Most such incidents can be prevented if your employees know and follow electrical safety measures, and the harm can be mitigated if they know what to do in case of an incident. This makes it a crucial topic to address as part of regular safety instructions.
Fire risk can also be reduced if proper care is taken and safety measures are followed. But accidents do happen, and having an emergency plan in place is vital to prevent major injuries or fatalities.
Employees need to know how to minimize the effects of fire and prevent it from spreading, where fire extinguishers are placed and how to use them, quick evacuation routes to use when necessary, and the right use of alarm systems. Of course, practical training through fire drills or other methods is required (and mandated by OSHA) to ensure that the employees know what they’re doing. But reminding them of key points such as the location of emergency exits during the safety meetings would be useful.
7. Reporting Hazards and Incidents
One of the most important ways to prevent accidents is for your workers to keep an eye out for hazards or unsafe conditions at work and report to the relevant authorities as soon as they notice something. For this, they need to know the common hazards in your organization and the protocol for reporting them.
Of course, no amount of risk prevention measures can make your workplace 100% safe. Accidents happen, and employees also need to know how to report them quickly and accurately. Swift reporting helps with handling work injuries as well as managing any insurance claims that might result from the incident. So, reporting both hazards and incidents is an important safety topic to cover.
8. Basic First Aid Training
First aid can go a long way towards reducing the effects of accidents in the workplace. Basic first aid can hinder disability and even save lives.
You can create a more secure work environment by training all employees in simple first aid procedures like treating bleeding and fire burns, CPR, immediate response to sprains or fractures, and nursing a person who’s fainted. It would also be useful to remind employees where they can find first aid kits, defibrillators, respirators, and other equipment during toolbox talks.
9. Online Safety
Since a lot of work is online these days, cybersecurity is now a critical safety topic in itself. Cyber threats can cause a large amount of financial, legal, and personal damage (i.e., breach of privacy of employees) to an organization, so online safety training is quite crucial.
You need to ensure that employees know and follow the best practices related to online work, including guidelines for protecting sensitive information, maintaining strong passwords, using a two-step verification process, etc. Employees also need to know what protocols to follow in case of a cyber incident, so that’s another topic to focus on.
10. Equipment Safety
Employees must know how to safely use job-specific equipment. Even if they have skills and experience, training them on the safety measures to adopt while using your specific equipment goes a long way towards ensuring their safety. Employees need to be aware of the safe use of every piece of equipment they are likely to come in contact with.
Another part of safe equipment use involves lockout and tagout procedures. These involve isolating energy sources before the machines are repaired or worked on, and proper locking and tagging during maintenance or cleaning procedures. Toolbox talks must cover these procedures, discussing how to lock out the machines, what tags to use, and how to identify that a machine is locked out.
Streamline Workplace Safety With Pulpstream
Thinking up relevant safety topics for work to talk about with your employees may seem daunting, especially since it spans a whole spectrum. From simple trips and falls to CPR training and fire safety, everything is important to ensure a safe and healthy workplace. While the above list of topics may be a good guide to start with, it is certainly not exhaustive, and you may have additional topics to discuss based on safety issues specific to your organization.
Attempting to cover every possible safety issue, plus providing adequate training and maintaining safety checklists and workflows, could get difficult and maybe even confusing. But Pulpstream’s various solutions can help keep things in order. You can automate tedious processes and documentation related to safety training, keep workflows and checklists in order, and streamline safety communications to your employees with a single digital solution.
Allow Pulpstream to ease your way into a safe and healthy work environment for your employees. Book a free demo today!