August 1, 2015 – Every once in a while I am retained by one of the parties to a lawsuit to be an “expert witness”. This involves reviewing evidence and offering my opinions in the case. As part of a recent case where I was retained by the defendant, the attorney for the Plaintiff who was conducting my deposition asked me to show him the “OSHA-required documented proof that the defendant conducted mandatory daily toolbox talks”. It was obvious he did not like my answer.
What I told him is that Federal OSHA does not have a standard requiring an employer to conduct toolbox talks at all, much less once a day. And secondly, even if an employer chooses to conduct toolbox talks at any frequency (daily, weekly, monthly . . .), there is no mandatory Federal OSHA requirement that all toolbox talks be documented.
He went on to hammer me with additional questions about how an employer could effectively train their workers if they don’t conduct daily toolbox talks (I listed 99 other ways this could be done). I also explained that while some companies conduct toolbox talks to provide workers with specific OSHA mandated training (such as Haz-Com or PPE . . .), it has been my experience that mostly they are used as a tool to try and raise general awareness and elevate workers’ focus on safety and health.
When asked if I know of any companies with great safety programs who conduct and document daily toolbox talks, I admitted that I had. But I also explained that I have seen many examples of companies with great safety programs who conduct toolbox talks that do not document the meetings unless there is a standard-specific requirement to do so. And I closed by also adding that I have seen many companies with great safety programs who do not perform any toolbox talks at all.
Some of you like to use toolbox talks in your organization, so we actually offer free toolbox talks on our website; there are approximately 45 of them posted now, and we add a new one every month. And we do provide a sign-in sheet along with each toolbox talk for workers who attend to place their name and signature. That is because some of the specific OSHA standards do require training documentation (e.g.: respiratory protection, lockout/tagout, bloodborne pathogens . . .), but we also provide the sign-in sheets because using them might help keep the lawyers off your butt. However, it has been my experience that even if you do produce a sign-in sheet for a toolbox talk (or any training session), the attorneys usually start nit-picking it because it "is not specific enough", or they "can’t clearly read all the names", or "you can’t prove someone did not forge a name", or one of many other reasons. So it seems you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t!
So be sure to refer to specific Federal OSHA training standard to determine any mandatory training and documentation requirements that apply to your operations. We have compiled non-exhaustive lists of these for you on our website, and they can be accessed at this link for Federal OSHA's general industry training requirements, and at this link for Federal OSHA's construction training requirements.
Do you or your clients conduct regular toolbox talks? If so, how often are they conducted? And do you document every toolbox talk conducted? How effective do you find them to be? If you would like to comment on this topic (and I hope you do) or would like to read comments submitted by others, please click here and fill in the “Comments” box. And last but not least, I would like to encourage you to Share this Blog post with others in your Network who might enjoy reading this information.
And last but not least, I would like to encourage you to Share this Blog post with others in your Network who might enjoy reading this information.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Curtis Chambers is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and holds a Master of Science degree in Occupational Safety and Health. He has held numerous leadership positions managing and evaluating health and safety programs and providing training on workplace safety and health topics at various public organizations and private corporations. Mr. Chambers is currently the President of OSHA Training Services Inc. Visit their website at www.oshatraining.com.