The Real Cost and ROI of Toolbox Talks in Australia Each Day

According to my (very, very conservative) estimates, Australian industry spends in excess of $23 Million on Tool box talks every single work day.

And, that is just the time cost of the attendees.

Here is the thing – Australian industry is spending $23M per day on tool box talks, and in general terms, they are not training leaders up to do them well, so they are just hoping and praying for a high quality outcome. Leaders that run the toolbox talks start out as great technicians, they get promoted into leadership roles, and one day they get told that they are now running the toolbox talks …

Their first reaction is dread, and they just try to ‘get through the whole ordeal’ every day, and they aim to either get at least one person in attendance to actually say something … Or, the opposite, they hope and pray that today will be the day when the ‘whinger’ is quiet, or is having a sickie 😊.

Why are toolbox talks such a chore, and why don’t the leaders running them care about them, prepare for them, or share real information during them, to engage hearts and minds in the safety process for the day?  Because they don’t know how to. Plain and simple. They have never been trained. They have never been shown how to run an effective toolbox, they have never been told to take ‘flexibility in the framework’, and they have never been engaged in why the process is so important to the business, and to the safety effort.

So, why haven’t leaders been trained? Especially when the daily spend is $23M; Isn’t this saying that the process is important enough to help leaders do it well?

Leaders haven’t been trained because the toolbox talk process is not important to senior leaders and management team, it is still essentially a tick and flick exercise …

When senior leaders, and management teams, get that:

  1. The toolbox talk is perhaps the most important safety thing that they ‘get to do’ (not have to do)
  2. The toolbox talk is part of engaging teams in the safety process, not individuals – safety is a team sport
  3. The toolbox talk process is daunting, without the right level of training and support – coaching and mentoring is part of the process

They will be better placed to support their leaders to do a great job at six or seven am every morning, when they are standing in front of 10 or 20 bleary eyed potentially disengaged heavy industry workers.

As a footnote, just imagine if senior leaders and managers really understood just how much the toolbox process is costing industry, each and every day.

I wonder if they would ever ask if they are getting a ROI on their commitment of resources. Then, the next question would be; ‘How do you measure the ROI of the toolbox talk process? Great question (and, would the fact that, as at 19 November, there have been 147 Australian workers killed at work in 2020 be one element of the answer)? I will leave the ROI question up to you and your safety leaders to work through. Contact us for support on how to answer this question!

And, of course contact us if you would like to train your leaders on how to do toolbox talks with purpose and passion!

Note: This blog post comes from our analysis of 2019 Australian employment statistics, and presumes that all workers in the Mining, Manufacturing, Electricity (and Gas, Water and Waste Services), Construction, Wholesale Trade and the Transport, Postal and Warehousing industries attend a 20 minute tool box per day. Our research shows that (and uses) the average hourly rate for Australian workers in 2019 (from Employsure), of $19.84 (divided by 3, which equates to $6.61 in time cost per toolbox talk per employee). In our opinion, the hourly rate of the workers in these industries would be significantly higher than the average, though not all might attend a tool box talk, so we are comfortable with our analysis. Again, $23M per day is a huge daily commitment, and with the statistics below, and you could perform your own analysis, if you so wish (links to the sites used are provided also).

Employed People Proportion of Total Employed
Industry of employment (Division)Feb-18Feb-19Change Feb-18 to Feb-19Feb-18Feb-19
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing324.6332.
Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services146.40147.600.81.21.2
Wholesale Trade365.30390.9072.93.1
Retail Trade1296.501284.7-0.910.410.1
Accommodation and Food Services886.0907.
Transport, Postal and Warehousing640.10666.
Information Media and Telecommunications222.5220.4-
Financial and Insurance Services433.2445.
Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services218.1216.3-
Professional, Scientific and Technical Services1,035.11,
Administrative and Support Services408.5414.
Public Administration and Safety749.3858.514.666.7
Education and Training1,021.51,
Health Care and Social Assistance1,675.21,702.71.613.413.3
Arts and Recreation Services250.6247.4-1.321.9
Other Services483.6515.76.63.94
Total employed12,490.812,774.62.3100100
3,482,700.00($19.84/h/3)$6.61 (Average hourly rate – Aust, divided by 3)
Total Daily Cost$23,032,256.00
Toolbox Time20 Minutes/Day

Anton Guinea is the safety leadership expert. His journey is unique, having survived a workplace incident which he transformed from a cautionary story into powerful, psychology-based safety programs that has moved the hearts and minds of organisations globally. 
For 15 years, Anton has worked with over 150+ businesses and their leaders, to help make safety safe; safe to talk about, to engage in, and to report about. Working in the space of where Safety meets Leadership, Anton founded The Guinea Group as the safety support network to help businesses to LEADsafe365.
Get in touch with Anton today.

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