Safety Coaching and the Ethos Toolbox Talk

22/01/2020 | Article | 5 Min Read.

Ethos safety coaching aims for all members of the work party to take responsibility for individual safety and the safety of others from the start of any task; a toolbox talk plays a vital role in achieving this. Inclusion, participation, engaging, mentoring, coaching, understanding, awareness, clarity, goals, and leadership – all words to describe the makings of a great toolbox talk.

How Do We Achieve a Great Toolbox talk?

Even before the supervisor opens their permit, Ethos coaches encourage participation. The industry is far too familiar with a supervisor standing up in front of the work party and telling everyone exactly what is written on the permit; they are in ‘tell mode’. This is not the Ethos style; we are not looking for any lecturing skills the supervisor might have. Instead, we look for safety coaching and safety leadership skills. We coach the supervisor to go into ‘ask mode’, encouraging them to let the work party engage in discovering the hazards and perceiving the risk. We want the supervisor to ensure sound understanding of the work party through asking open questions. There is a big difference in a reaction when we ask someone to do something as opposed to telling them.

“The coaching process is unique in how it accomplishes leadership development. The coach works not by providing answers per se but by asking questions through which the leader gains new insights and takes new actions.”

Aubrey Malphurs in Maximizing Your Effectiveness

The toolbox talk is all about raising awareness of hazards, and perception of risk to ensure controls are implemented.

We ask questions in a risk assessment format:

What is the task? How will it be done? How can they get hurt? (the hazards). What would their injuries be? How likely is that? (the risk), and what keeps us safe? (the controls).

As Ethos safety coaches we are there to support the supervisor. The amount of support needed depends on the stage that the supervisor is at on their personal safety coaching journey.

Taking one hazard at a time, we will ensure all are confident and everyone knows absolutely everything about the hazard before moving onto the next. A toolbox talk structure like this allows for two-way communication to take place. The supervisor can monitor the work party’s understanding of the hazards and ensure everyone is given the opportunity to contribute. To clarify, we want to know what the hazards are (also referred to as the energies) how they can hurt us, the effects that they could have on us, and what is keeping us safe or preventing these hazards from hurting us. Asking questions around these points gets people thinking – they imagine what could happen and the effect it could have on them, and most importantly they accept personal responsibility.

Once we have covered all the hazards, the work pack can be opened and the Permit can be addressed. Normally all points will have been discussed, however it can be a useful final check that everything has been discussed and all are happy.

Goal Setting

After the toolbox talk, we always have a one-to-one coaching session with the supervisor, developing coaching and safety leadership. We help the Performing Authority identify what went well and areas for improvement. As coaches we ask the supervisor powerful questions to generate awareness of the impact they can have on their organisations health and safety. This allows them to come up with their own goals which can be developed for the future.

What Are the Goals of the Ethos Safety Coach?

As Ethos safety coaches we have goals ourselves. We want to improve the coaching skills of the supervisor to a point where they become a leader of safety through coaching. When this becomes a reality, our job is complete.