April 13, 2021

Toolbox talks for the mobile workforce: four ways to increase jobsite efficiency and safety

In what has been a a year of unprecedented challenges for the construction industry globally, Mike Merrill, Co-founder and COO of WorkMax, looks at four ways of increasing jobsite efficiency and safety.


A lot can change over the course of a year. Think back to October 2019 –– the construction industry had no way of predicting that the next twelve months would bring some of the most challenging and eye-opening safety issues in modern history. First, the Hard Rock Hotel collapsed in New Orleans in October, serving as a tragic reminder that construction firms needed to evaluate their own safety measures. Then, by February there were rumblings that a new virus called Covid-19 could shut down business for a few weeks. Today we are staring down the fourth quarter of 2020. Covid-19 has swept the country and the world, while construction companies scrambled to implement new safety protocols.  

Covid-19 has been a major catalyst for change for construction companies. Safety has always been important, but this new challenge means that contractors must remain vigilant and be as paperless as possible. So what should construction leaders do to ensure their workforce is more properly prepared for everything and well versed in new safety procedures? The answer is as simple as the good ol’ toolbox talk. 

Here are four ways that the lastest toolbox talk solutions keep today’s workforce agile and up to date:

Digital toolbox talks are an effective means of teaching

The American Journal of Independent Medicine reported that toolbox talks are a pivotal safety component for job sites. The study showed that toolbox talks are an effective way to share critical safety and project-based updates, also revealing that the more relevant and personal the information, the more effective it will be. The key to a successful toolbox talk is its format, the most effective of which involves describing relevant occupational safety and health failures for a safety procedure in a narrative format with follow up questions. Unfortunately, hosting traditional toolbox talks across multiple shifts and sites can be a challenge in addition to their traditional paper formats. On top of that, it’s nearly impossible for managers to ensure everyone attends, let alone pays attention throughout the talk. 

Cloud-based toolbox talks change the game by allowing safety managers to easily record, upload and share video toolbox talks from any tablet or smartphone. Videos can be uploaded in minutes, during which the safety manager can embed the video link into a digital form  and comprehension questions can be asked afterwards in the digital form to make sure the viewer clearly understands the safety practices taught. By making these toolbox talks convenient and engaging, workers are more likely to watch them. When they fill out the questions at the end of the talk, managers can feel confident that the employees not only watched the entire video, but they learned the pertinent information as well.

Cloud-based toolbox talks can be easily distributed across your mobile workforce

Digital cloud-based toolbox talks can be attached to the tracking of labor hours. Every employee wants to get paid, so every employee will clock in for their shift. Safety managers can attach their toolbox talk to the login procedure so that employees are required to watch and engage with the questions following the toolbox talk. According to the Live Field Data Usage Report, 50% of all contractors would expect at least a 30 percent increase in their form completions when they are attached to a cloud-based time tracking app. 

With Covid-19 still evolving, cloud-based solutions are vital to training your employees on new safety procedures now and into the future. Being able to quickly deploy toolbox talks and other safety training for Covid-19 without requiring safety managers to be at every site physically, decreases their exposure by limiting their travel from site to site. It also allows safety managers and supervisors to increase their effectiveness by giving each worker the toolbox talk directly, eliminating challenges like people arriving late, being off-site, or being distracted. The questions at the end of the toolbox talk can be tracked and flagged automatically so that supervisors know if an individual worker answered critical questions incorrectly, prompting a one-on-one follow up with the worker to ensure their understanding and compliance with any new safety rules. 

Digital toolbox talks keep OSHA and local enforcement documentation up to date

For the first couple of months of the Covid-19 pandemic, construction companies were encouraged to keep working. New procedures were implemented by OSHA and local governments but were not enforced for months as everyone was adjusting to the new norm. That grace period has ended, with local enforcement of procedures levelling fines up to $2,000 for each infraction and, in some cases, shutting down work sites for infractions. And this doesn’t include the penalty being levelled by OSHA. 

Cloud-based solutions are flexible and can quickly deploy new toolbox talks embedded with signatures with both time and date stamps for OSHA documentation. Safety managers would simply create a new form, add a signature field, and embed a link to the new training video. The new toolbox talk would be immediately available for workers to watch before signing off directly to document that they watched the video. Safety managers can make the signature a required field so that they know every single form that’s submitted includes a signature verifying the employee engaged with the toolbox talk. The date and time that the form was submitted is also shown on the dashboard for proper OSHA documentation. This documentation can be easily shared with any OSHA inspectors, proving that the contractor is complying with local laws and regulations and proactively managing safety as it relates to Covid-19. 

Digital toolbox talks give managers global visibility

As soon as the form is submitted after the toolbox talk, managers can see in real-time all the employees and safety forms that have been submitted. All of the forms are searchable and records can be easily found when you search by the employee’s name or any number of other fields. You can also see all the forms of any type that have been completed by each employee. Additionally, the safety manager can automatically receive each safety training form by email as they are completed in real-time.  

Cloud-based toolbox talks work on any iOS or Android device. Employees can use their own mobile devices to reduce any risk of spreading germs from sharing pens, clipboards, or any shared devices to sign off that they viewed a safety video. It’s also much easier to provide toolbox talks if employees are prompted to complete them as part of their clock IN/OUT process. It’s right in front of them on their phone and to ensure that they can’t forget to do it. It is typical for a contractor to increase their toolbox talk completions by 25% to 50% when made a part of the clock in/out process.  

Cloud-based toolbox talks effectively allow companies to train their employees on new safety procedures without requiring safety managers to be physically on-site. Additionally, safety managers and supervisors can receive the required documentation with time-stamped and GPS location confirmed employee signatures completed right from the employee’s own mobile device. This all can be done within moments of recording and uploading any new training video. Increasing the dissemination of proper safety information and toolbox talks in the workforce will increase worker safety and reduce company risks in 2020 and beyond.