Here at TTE we don’t only concern ourselves with teaching young apprentices the A-Z of their chosen discipline, but also, as we have discussed in these pages before, we look at whole person development, or WPD. WPD is a well-established concept that focuses on nurturing a person’s soft skills – the personal and the emotional, how to look after and improve themselves, to understand and appreciate their colleagues and also to help them improve.

Part of our holistic approach is the ‘toolbox talk’, another initiative to invest time, care and attention in our people. It’s about giving them the best chance of succeeding both personally and professionally.

We are big advocates of toolbox talks which are informal safety meetings at the start of a working day covering specific topics related to health and safety. However, not only can they be used to highlight hazards and safe working practices and refresh knowledge, but they can also be used to spot the signs in someone who might be suffering. They also lay the foundations for a good culture which in turn can encourage people to speak up.

People’s problems are not always about work of course and there are other factors outside of the workplace that can be at play. However, given that we spend a considerable amount of time out of the home, it’s only right that we support each other in this way too.

Toolbox talks

So what is a toolbox talk? The development and maintenance of a safe working culture can only be effective if everyone is included and actively involved. The use of toolbox talks is an invaluable means of involving everyone and especially those most at risk.

Toolbox talks provide a convenient and effective method of communicating and reinforcing safety messages throughout our young workforce. They don’t take long – 15 minutes is quite common on most construction/engineering sites – yet the benefits are long lasting. They include greater awareness, with not only the potential to reduce accident rates, and possibly even save a life, but also these days they are a key part of mental first aid, with prevention at the top of the list.

Why is this important?

The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) recent report of December 2021 makes interesting reading. HSE published statistics that cover work-related ill health and of the 1.7m workers who suffered from a work-related illness (new or long standing) in 2020/21, 800,000 had stress, depression or anxiety.

TTE’s apprentices take part in daily ‘toolbox talks’ where they discuss a wide range of issues surrounding their well-being. This ensures that they can prioritise their health and wellbeing through meaningful discussions with their peers and dedicated mentors. We go even further than that which they will eventually become used to out in the wider working world, because we discuss topics that include lifestyle, such as staying safe in the sun, the hazards of gambling addiction and the importance of good sexual health.

Our toolbox talks prepare our apprentices for work and they also equip them to help the establishment of thoughtful workplace cultures, and crucially this is from the ground up, because we have ‘caught them young’. One day, all being well, they will find themselves on sites expertly using the skills they have been taught, but with these added extras.

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