Toolbox Talks for July: Monthly Topics for Safety Meetings

A Construction Worker Removes PPE on Hot Day in July

There is lots to talk about in toolbox talks for July. From the weather heating up to important off-the-job issues, there’s no shortage of relevant toolbox topics. If you’re not sure what to discuss in safety meetings in July, here are a few items to consider covering.

Heat Stress

Heat stress is a recurring theme in the summer months, and July is no different. This is a perfect time to review the different types of heat stress (including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, heat cramps  and heat rash) as well as signs of heat stress (like dehydration, confusion and lethargy).

If you’ve already discussed these issues over the last few months then improve the effectiveness of your talks by mixing up your approach. You could try quizzing workers on what they remember about the signs and types of heat stress. Or one toolbox talk for July could present a scenario of someone suffering from heat stress.

Alternately, ask workers how they would respond when they notice:

  • the warning signs of heat stress in themselves
  • the warning signs of heat stress in others
  • co-workers who are inappropriately dressed or at greater risk of a hot-weather injury

You can also have a larger conversation about the symptoms of heat stress by asking outdoor workers which symptom they think is the easiest to notice, and which sign of heat stress they believe people tend to exhibit first.

One last option is to talk with workers about looking out for each other. People can often recognize early symptoms of heat stress in others. If they see someone at risk of heat stroke, there’s a better chance of someone stepping in before the problem gets really serious. And if people are paying attention to co-workers, there’s a good chance that they’ll naturally monitor themselves for heat-related issues too.

PPE

There’s never a bad time to discuss PPE requirements but July is a particularly appropriate time to do a toolbox talk on protective equipment.

High temperature cause all sorts of problems, which makes it easy to overlook how it exacerbates other issues like PPE noncompliance. The heat can make it more uncomfortable to wear PPE and workers often find it easier to justify taking it off “just for a minute” in order to cool down or wipe away sweat.

Toolbox talks in July should discuss when and where PPE is required. They could also present scenarios of workers who get hurt because they momentarily removed protective equipment.

Finally, you could try addressing the elephant in the room by asking workers to share when they will be most tempted to remove their PPE. This is a great way to get everyone on the same page and it gives safety managers and supervisors a good starting point for dealing with summertime PPE issues.

Sunscreen

Sunscreen deserves a special mention here. Many workers will ignore the need for sunscreen in late spring and early summer. By the time July rolls around, they can no longer get by without it, and it’s up to EHS professionals to provide timely reminders about sunscreen.

Sunscreen-related toolbox talks in July should explain the long-term dangers of skin cancer. They should also cover short-term health issues like sunburns. It’s likely that outdoor workers already know about these problems, so try to approach it from a different angle by providing statistics and stories that emphasize the need for sunscreen.

This is also a good time to discuss off-the-job safety, because many people use sunscreen at work but not at home. Make sure you talk about how workers can set a good example for their kids—they’re much more likely to respond to a family-focused message.

Driving

Many countries have major civic holidays in July. We don’t normally think of national holidays as safety issues, but the NSC notes that holidays “are associated with an uptick in car crashes resulting in serious injury and death.”

Throughout July there’s also a lot more cars on the roads because people are on vacation and engaged in other summer activities. This means there are several car-related issues to discuss in toolbox talks for July, including:

  • drinking and driving
  • paying attention to other drivers
  • looking out for kids and people who aren’t paying attention
  • avoiding distraction when driving

Complacency

By the time mid-July arrives, most people’s minds are on anything but work. That can cause a lot of safety problems.

I’ve already identified several topics where complacency can be addressed by toolbox talks in July. You should also  look at other common safety issues that can be affected by complacency. If there are any tasks where you notice workers becoming more lax then try writing a talk or two that will prevent complacency from turning into an injury.

Quick Tips on Toolbox Talks for July

If you skimmed the beginning of this post, this is where you want to pay attention. Here’s a recap of the common themes for possible toolbox talks for July. They are:

  • off-the-job issues (including driving, complacency and heat)
  • hot weather (from heat stress to related problems like PPE compliance)
  • complacency (on issues like PPE, driving and other summer distractions)

A lot of these are big topics. They can seem a little amorphous and they’re not your usual run-of-the-mill toolbox topics.

There are a couple ways to make safety talks more approachable in the summer.

First, be specific. Don’t talk about complacency in generaltalk about being complacent with ladder use, lifting technique or some other specific task.

Second, don’t just repeat the usual stuff. Everyone knows about sunscreen, heat stress, and the fact that roads are busier and more dangerous during July. So really get into stories, facts and frank conversations about why these are such big problems.

Finally, don’t forget to cover the usual stuff. I’ve outlined a few ideas about safety problems that are much more urgent in July. But don’t forget that you still need to cover regular, day-to-day safety concerns in toolbox talks no matter what month it is.

Conducting tailgate talks in July can be challenging. People’s minds are elsewhere. And it can be harder to craft compelling talks on summer safety concerns. But it’s not impossible. And with a bit of care, you can knock it out of the park with toolbox talks for July.

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