Canadian Rental Service

Canadian Rental Association
CRA President’s Message: Meeting success

One of the frequently asked questions from supervisors is, “How do I engage workers in effective toolbox or safety learning sessions? And, why are toolbox sessions important?” In order to continue improving this element of our workplace culture, we need to make some adjustments that will increase our teams’ safety awareness.


August 16, 2016
By Tim Ranson CRA president

To this end, many companies have found success by introducing regular health and safety learning sessions that introduce safety planning, spark job-related discussions and engage all employees.

Safety messaging can revolve around recurring topics or you can try researching new topics based upon the type of work you anticipate at your rental store. This helps engage employees by relating the discussion to the events from the previous and upcoming days or weeks. This process is based on significant successes of other organizations in the rental industry and with many of our customers. It encourages awareness of seasonal change, equipment demand and current safety issues within the industry.

To establish a safety meeting routine first it’s important to note that there are different types of safety meetings. Daily, weekly and monthly are standard. Daily learning sessions are an opportunity for management to give new information and immediate updates to staff. Weekly toolbox discussions are generally 10- to 15-minute informal gatherings, one day a week, aimed at getting employees to participate in structured learning sessions and to review the branch-specific safety issues of the day. Monthly branch safety meetings should take about one hour to review site inspections, safety job assignments, hazard awareness and specific incidents and to conduct a company-wide and branch-wide review of overall results or specific subject training.

For daily learning sessions, your store’s safety designate can coordinate the communication of safe work practices, safety alerts, and detailed incident reviews. It is the responsibility of the manager or supervisor to ensure the topics and the messages are valuable to the group. It is also important to ask for and expect participation from the workers in these very important interactive sessions.

For toolbox meetings, the session leader kicks off the session by asking workers one simple question: “What are we going to do today to have a safe day?” The answer will determine the flow of the discussion. Office administration staff should not be discouraged because they are in low risk positions – they can still consider incidents throughout the day such as the drive to work, hobbies at home, etc. The question should be aimed at one person and they should be asked to give a detailed answer. Having a pre-planned learning session can work well if the leader is able to engage the workers in two way communication. Simply downloading information should not be considered a good meeting.

To improve engagement, we have found that when employees take turns leading toolbox meetings there is more respect for the peer and some great topics are brought forward. I recommend a supervisor/manager lead the sessions in the beginning in order to demonstrate leadership and provide a consistent example of how the sessions should be conducted. Your sessions will be more successful if your team sizes are kept smaller. Employees will be more inclined to contribute in a smaller group than in a larger one. The best time for a toolbox meeting is immediately before the shift starts. For locations with multiple start times, earlier in the day is often optimum.

The best place to hold the daily learning sessions is right in the middle of the workplace. Resist the temptation to hold it in the lunchroom or meeting room, if possible. When the learning sessions are held in the workplace, people will focus more on the speaker. We have successfully used this daily safety discussion time to review a tool, or demonstrate to staff the correct inspection and safe operation examples we might use with a customer.  


Tim Ranson is Environment, Health and Safety manager at Finning (Canada) / The Cat Rental Store in Edmonton, Alta. He has worked in the rental industry for more than 20 years. Tim sat on the ARA Trade Show Committee and the ARA Risk Management Committee and helped start its Professional Driver Improvement Program. He was also a speaker/panelist over the past three years at the ARA Rental Show learning sessions.