How can Toolbox Talks Support an ISO 45001 Management System?

How can toolbox talks support an ISO 45001 management system

Whether you already have an ISO 45001 management system in place, or you’re working towards certification, you have a legal responsibility for the safety of your staff and contractors. This includes equipping them with the skills and know-how they need to keep themselves, and also other people safe, whilst carrying out company business.

But, keeping to speed on a regular basis with who’s been told what can be easier said than done in busy businesses with employees working on-site and remotely. 

Toolbox talks come in to their own for this purpose. They bring everybody together at a pre-determined location and time for a group chat about a specific health and safety topic.

So, if you’re –

  • Planning to start toolbox talks whilst going through the ISO 45001 management system certification process
  • Already hold toolbox talks, but you know your existing efforts can be improved upon

you’ll want to pay close attention to this…

What are the benefits of toolbox talks?

Toolbox talks are common in many industries to raise awareness of the workplace health and safety programme. Their frequency can be dictated by the needs of your business and your team. But some organisations start every day with a toolbox talk. It keeps everybody’s health and safety knowledge bang up to speed, and to constantly reinforces a positive culture around health and safety.

In short, toolbox talks provide you and your team with an open forum to explore a single health and safety topic. The laser focus on one subject prevents it from descending in to general chinwag about everything else that’s going on at work. To this end, effective toolbox talks usually cover –

  • Identifying the risks of a specific health and safety issue
  • Mitigating risks
  • Dealing with any issues

You’ll quickly adapt as you go along to a delivery style that engages and inspires your team. But, the following pointers are well worth bearing in mind –

  • Brevity – Most people have got the attention spans of goldfish these days. So, your briefings should be just that – BRIEF. 
  • Key Takeaways – Repeat the main points at the beginning and the end of the session, to increase retention amongst your team.
  • Relevance – Toolbox talks should cover subjects that are relevant to the work being carried out and the work environment.  For example, you could use the toolbox talks to promote safety awareness; risks such as slips, trips and falls; the importance of wearing PPE correctly; reporting near misses and other hazards on the site.

How does this fit in with ISO 45001 Management Systems?

Toolbox talks can supercharge the ISO 45001 management system, supplementing it with a multitude of different benefits.  Here’s a few (though this list isn’t exhaustive):


Clause 5.4 of the ISO 45001 management system emphasises the participation and involvement of workers. It’s requirement of the standard. In order to achieve this, toolbox talks are a compelling way to engage with workers, providing everybody with a forum to openly discuss health and safety.

In addition, they nurture a supportive environment, where workers feel comfortable and confident about exchanging ideas and voicing concerns.

Top Tip: Documented evidence is gold dust for assisting with your audits. So, don’t forget to record attendance. (This is covered in more detail below.)


Clause 7.3 of the ISO 45001 management system requires employee awareness around hazards, health and safety risks, and actions that are relevant to them. (There are other requirements. But that’s for a different blog post.) So, by discussing the hazards and risks within the workplace, employees are better equipped to reduce risk.

In addition, it empowers them to spot risk and remove themselves from work situations that could present an imminent threat to their health, or even their life.

Risk assessment

Toolbox talks are great opportunities to discuss your risk assessments and method statements.  Clause 6 of the ISO 45001 management system requires employees to contribute to risk assessments. So, by using toolbox talks to feed into the process for risk and hazard identification, you’re ticking two boxes simultaneously, by –

  • Satisfying the requirements of the standard
  • Gaining a better understanding of the hazards in the workplace, (which employees are best placed to identify as a result of being faced with them every day)

Mitigate incidents

Toolbox talks are invaluable following an incident, for providing a platform for examining –

  • What went wrong
  • What the risks were
  • How the risks can be prevented or mitigated in the future

Management commitment

Good leadership and strong management commitment are vital to a health and safety strategy and for the ISO 45001 management system.  So, putting health and safety on the agenda on a regular basis demonstrates that it’s taken seriously. And if you, as a manager, deliver toolbox talks yourself, the gravitas is emphasised even more.  And truthfully, when employees see health and safety being taken seriously at the top, they’re more likely to follow suit across all levels in the business.


Keeping documentation is key to maintaining your ISO 45001 management system.  So, by keeping a record of toolbox talks, you’re continuously accruing evidence which will be valuable at your next audit.

It’s advisable to maintain toolbox talk records that include –

  • Date
  • Topic and information provided
  • Who delivered the talk and their signature
  • Names and signatures of those who attended

Want to find out more?

If you’d like to find out more about the ISO 45001 management system and the many benefits that the standard can bring to your business, head over to my ISO 45001 page, or drop me an email on

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