Hello and welcome to our 6th Toolbox Talk.


Toolbox Talks Safety Training Scotland

Quick catch up, here are the talks we’ve covered so far:

1. Introduction to H&S and Accidents and Ill Health
2. Introduction to Health and Safety Legislation and Risk Assessments.
3. Hazardous Substances and Personal Protective Equipment
4. Workplace Health Safety & Welfare, Vehicles At Work, Plant Machinery & Equipment
5. Fire Safety

If you’ve been tagging along since Tool Box Talk 1, then feel free to skip ahead while we quickly cover the basics once again.

A toolbox talk is a short informal chat on a very specific health and safety issue and it usually lasts around 5-10 minutes.

Why make it so short? The reason for that is that you can pack lots of little toolbox talks into daily routines ensuring that best practice is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

In this Toolbox Talk, we’ll be covering quite a lot so feel free to break it into even smaller chunks so that you can fit it into your schedule. Toolbox Talk 6 is about Occupational Health, Manual Handling, and Working at Heights.


Occupational Health


Every year 1.5 million workers suffer from ill health caused or made worse by work.

Handpicked related content: What Is Occupational Health?

This is especially evident in the food and drinks industry wherein 2001, 29,000 workers reported suffering from ill health. That’s 4.8% of the workforce!

Occupational health is generally more difficult to manage than ordinary health and safety as the symptoms and effects are long term. Normally with health and safety issues – the consequences are immediate. This means that the cause of the problem is usually easy to identify. As symptoms of ill health can take a long time to develop, work-related causes of ill health can be harder to spot.


What causes work-related ill health?


The following table shows the most common ill health problems and causes according to the hse.gov:

Other occupational health hazards include but are not limited to viral and bacterial infections, hepatitis B, work-related violence, drugs and alcohol, and asbestos.


Display Screen Equipment regulations and checklist


If employees are not sitting right at their workstation, they can suffer from long-term ill health problems. A lot of the set- up is based on posture and strain on sight.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when setting up a workstation, the full checklist by hse.gov can be found here: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/ck1.pdf

  • Keyboard must be separate from the screen, if the employees use laptops then separate keyboards must be provided.
  • The mouse/ trackball must be positioned close to the user
  • Screen size must be large enough so that text is comfortable to read
  • Furniture such as chairs and desks must be suitable and set up according to the individual employee’s body composition

Employment Medical Advisory Service (EMAS)


Employment Medical Advisory Service (EMAS) offers the provision of occupational health advice, which means advice on health matters relating to work, to organisations and individuals including employers, employees, trade unions, regulators, health care professionals and others.

Make sure your employees:

  • Know how to set up their workstations according to the display screen equipment (DSE) workstation checklist
  • Can outline and explain the causes and dangers of work-related ill health and how to prevent it
  • Are aware that management encourages employees to report if they are unwell
  • Are aware of who to contact should they have any problems

Manual Handling


Manual handling is simply put; lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving any load.

Manual handling injuries can happen at any workplace. Whether you’re working in a hair salon, a restaurant, an office or as a professional BMXer it doesn’t matter. You are highly likely to be picking up something off the floor, or moving an object at some stage regardless of your career choice.

The most common manual handling injury is musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). This is the injury, damage or disorder of the joints or tissues in the limbs or the back.

How to move, lift, carry and stack

Here are our Safety Training Scotland Top Tips For Manual Handling.


manual handling

Lifting and handling aids


Frequent lifting and handling can cause long-term musculoskeletal disorders. Depending on the job at hand, there is often a variety of lifting and handling aids that can help you reduce or completely avoid any risk from heavy lifting.

Here’s a great overview from hse.gov of what lifting aids you could make use of for different situations.

Now, these aids obviously depend on the industry. Not every organisation will have a battery-powered tug, but it does provide some solid inspiration as to how you can reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders caused by careless manual handling.

Manual Handling Operations Regulations


As a manager or health and safety officer, you need to familiarise yourself with The Manual Handling Operations Regulations.

Make sure your employees:

  • Have been trained how to lift things properly, with their legs, not their back
  • Know what aids are available in your organisation for manual handling, and how to correctly use them

Working at heights


Working at height remains one of the biggest causes of occupational fatalities and major injuries. The most common cases often involve overreaching, overbalancing, falls from ladders and through fragile surfaces.

Other significant hazards include falling objects, failing equipment and failing structures, and contact with overhead electrical services.

Control measures when working at heights


When working at heights there are strict safety measures to abide by. Before working at height there are three simple steps to remember follow.

  1. avoid work at height where it’s reasonably practicable to do so
  2. where work at height cannot be easily avoided, prevent falls using either an existing place of work that is already safe or the right type of equipment
  3. minimise the distance and consequences of a fall, by using the right type of equipment where the risk cannot be eliminated

Ladders – You should only use ladders in situations where they can be used safely, eg where the ladder will be level and stable, and where it’s reasonably practicable to do so.

Work platforms including portable access platforms – Be sure to examine and inspect the platforms maintenance levels. Ask yourself have daily checks been carried out?

Fragile roofs, internal voids – Falls through fragile roofs account for 22% of all the deaths that result from a fall from height in the construction industry. The fragility, or otherwise, of a roof should be confirmed by a competent person before work starts. If there is any doubt, the roof should be treated as fragile unless, or until, confirmed that it is not.

Scaffolding – Scaffolds should be designed, erected, altered and dismantled only by competent people and the work should always be carried out under the direction of a competent supervisor. You can prevent falls during the erection of scaffolding by using an advanced guard rail system. Where this is not practical, workers should wear harnesses to arrest their fall.

Overhead cables – Good management, planning, and consultation with interested parties before and during any work close to overhead lines will reduce the risk of accidents. This applies to whatever type of work that’s being planned or undertaken, even if the work is temporary or of a short duration. You should manage the risks if you intend to work within a distance of 10 m, measured at ground level horizontally from below the nearest wire.

Dropping tools and debris – There are a range of solutions to prevent dropped objects, they include tethering, barriers, and anti-drop mats. To protect workers from falling object, they must wear the appropriate headgear and PPE.

Make sure your employees:

  • Have the right PPE and headwear to protect them when working at heights.
  • Know what safety measures to take to prevent accidents at the work site

Need help planning and running your toolbox talks?

We’ve been doing health and safety training for many years now, and we’re damn good at it! If the sound of adding toolbox talks to your weekly routine has tickled your fancy, but you aren’t quite sure how to execute it – give us a call! We can help you plan and run your toolbox talks to make sure your team is up to date with the latest and most important health and safety good practice.