Toolbox Safety Meetings have been around now for about 30 years. Rather than being an out-dated concept, the Toolbox Safety Meeting is more relevant today than it ever was. But are we using them to their full potential?
THE TOOLBOX SAFETY MEETING
About thirty years ago, a revolutionary change was made in workplace safety; the Toolbox Safety Meeting was introduced. Also called a “Toolbox Talk”, “Tailgate Talk” and “Safety Minute”, these meetings had an almost immediate impact on each and every industry where they were introduced, in that there was a marked decrease in industrial accidents. The reason for this is that, when conducted properly, these Toolbox Safety Meetings encourage active participation by, and input from the front line workers.
PART OF A PROCESS
With the evolution of the Risk Assessment and Hazard Analysis process in the workplace, there was a further decrease noted in industrial accidents. The Toolbox Safety Meeting, rather than becoming redundant, has fit right into this process, becoming the part of the process where the people who actually perform the work get involved each day.
The importance of the Toolbox Meeting cannot be over-stressed. A large percentage of workplace fatality investigations show one common and alarming trait: either the Toolbox Safety Meeting was not used, or the meetings were not taken seriously by management or employees and were often totally irrelevant to the tasks being performed. These meetings cause the workers to stop and think about their jobs, the tasks they perform, the hazards and they could face, and how to mitigate or eliminate the hazards. It has been demonstrated that daily meetings keep safety foremost in the minds of the employees so supervisors have a responsibility to ensure the meetings are held, the employees participate, and the topics are relevant.
KEEPING IT RELEVANT
I was working as Diving Supervisor at one offshore installation when the Safety Officer insisted that the diving crew participate in the platform toolbox meeting and not hold a separate meeting. The topics he showed me included the following: working safely in the galley; housekeeping; working with paint and chemicals; keeping the platform stairwells safe; working at height; and fire prevention on the platform. Although these are all fine topics for platform personnel, they really are not relevant to the diving crew, and therefore I pulled rank and held a separate and dedicated daily toolbox for my diving crew. The Toolbox Meeting, particularly at the start of any given project, needs to address the hazards identified by the Job Hazard Analysis, but it needs to address those hazards that the diving crew will be exposed to. When the diving crew is working closely with other trades, such as during underwater lifting operations, the crane operator and the signalmen (banksmen) need to be included in the Toolbox Meeting along with the divers. If the divers will be working in a differential pressure area such as a hydro dam or a navigation lock, the operators of these facilities also need to be involved in the toolbox. It makes absolutely no sense at all to have a diving crew sitting through a Toolbox Meeting that is discussing how to prevent fires and food poisoning in a galley.
KEEPING IT INTERESTING
The Diving Supervisor has a legal, moral, and ethical responsibility to do everything within his power to keep his diver and the diving crew safe from harm. It has been demonstrated that a properly conducted Toolbox Meeting will make a huge difference in how the crew performs their jobs, and will help prevent an industrial accident from occurring. So therefore, the Diving Supervisor has a legal and moral responsibility to hold a Toolbox Meeting, and to ensure the crew’s participation in it. If the meeting does not hold crew’s interest, it is a waste of time. The Toolbox Meeting needs to be seen for what it really is: an opportunity to teach the diving crew the safe way to perform tasks, and to refresh their memory. It is not a chance to talk about football scores, check text messages, or log into facebook.
As stated earlier, the Job Hazard Analysis fits into, and goes along with the Toolbox Meeting. But what if you are on a long term project and nothing is changing day-to-day? What if you are on a pipelay barge doing the odd stinger check or you are just performing the exact same tasks every day? Anyone who works with divers will tell you the first thing you learn is they all suffer from ADD or ADHD. You have to work hard to keep their attention, and repetition of the same information every day is not going to do the trick. When I am on the job as Diving Superintendent, I always provide my Supervisors with a list of relevant toolbox topics that they can either follow or pick from. Yes, when the crew is changing to a new operation you definitely want to perform a Job Hazard Analysis and a related Toolbox. And periodically throughout each project this information needs to be reviewed. But constant repetition is just going to make the Toolbox Meeting into Diver’s Nap Time, and that will do nothing to keep the lads safe and avoid accidents. One way of keeping the attention of the crew is to avoid repetition of subject matter. The other way is to get them involved. You were not hired to be a preacher or a politician, so do not make speeches. Talk to the crew and get their input. It is a great way to find out what they know and what they don’t. In a toolbox talk I held offshore Louisianna, I discovered that half of my crew did not know how to check the polarity of cutting or welding gear. That gave me a chance to teach them how to check polarity, and teach them why it is important to have the correct polarity. And that brings us to another issue: the Diving Supervisor should make sure he is teaching his crew correctly when teaching them tasks. So the responsible Diving Supervisor will do a quick read-up on the topic he is using for the toolbox, and that reading up should not be Google or Wikipedia, but a proper diver training manual, the US Navy Diving Manual or a corporate diving manual based on the US Navy Manual.
Deploying the standby diver – how to do it right
Recognizing signs and symptoms of hypothermia
Proper hydration for divers in warm weather
Proper PPE for the job you are performing
High pressure lines and whip checks
Avoiding back injuries on the job and at home
Safe handling of oxygen
Loss of communications to the diver
Lock-out Tag-out when working on vessels
Good housekeeping around the diving spread
PMS – why the Planned Maintenance System is important to divers
Loss of air supply to the diver and how to deal with it
Emergency drills – they can save your life
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of Decompression Sickness
Lifting underwater loads with a crane safely
Safety tips for burning with Broco gear
CONVENTID – the signs and symptoms of CNS Oxygen Toxicity
Recovery of an injured diver – how we do it
The Pre-Dive Checks on the diver --- take them seriously
Proper Procedure for diving and deck operations at night
Slips, Trips and Falls
Working at height (and doing it right)
CO Carbon Monoxide – the silent killer
Life Jackets, Work Vests and Floatation Devices
Prescription Drugs and Diving – what you need to know
Differential Pressure and the diver
Electrical Safety around the dive spread
Personal Fitness for the diver
Working over the side (greasing LARS, etc.)
The importance of Chamber Maintenance
Fire prevention in the Dive Control van
The Job Hazard Analysis (JHA)
Awareness of your surroundings can keep you alive
The right tool for the job
Stop and think BEFORE you act
Safety when using air or hydraulic powered tools
Stored energy – hidden danger awaits (rope, cable and chain under strain)
Contingency Planning – it may save your life
Edited by Hal Lomax