Tool box meeting – Identify Fatal Four

Toolbox meeting, also known as pre job meeting, was started first in construction industry to discuss jobs, dangers, concerns and any query by the workers. Later on it became a practice which almost all industry started to follow up and became integral part of any job. Every member and stake holder involved in any specific job wants the job to be completed without any incident or accident, for which a toolbox meeting is a must to discuss safety issues, safe work practice and workplace hazard related to that specific job.

There are thousands of industries and variety of tasks like aloft, underwater, mining work, tunnel work, working on towers, electrical work, high voltage work, construction work, mechanical work, heavy lift work, hot work and more.  Even though there are several measures, checks and alerts in practice; numerous incidents, near misses, accidents and even fatal accidents are occurring in work place around the world on daily basis.

How ship is different than other industries?

Although job performed on Toolbox meeting at construction siteships are similar to land based industrial works, but the conditions are not similar, it is more difficult due to external elements such as weather conditions, movement of vessel, limited resources, limited assistance, multitasking, limited personal and  multilingual, multicultural staff. So some additional alertness is required while carrying out any job on ships.

We regularly face near misses, incidents & accidents on board. On one of the ships a maintenance work was being carried out on main engine air cooler. Air cooler elements weighing approximately a ton was hanging on chain blocks. Fitter was physically aligning the hanging cooler, suddenly the chain block hook came out of the sling and the cooler element fell on the fitter’s leg. What went wrong here? May be fitter was not briefed before the job, or he him self did not understand that risks are always there and how to avoid it. Any hanging object can fall anytime, no body part should be put under hanging object.

In another incident a crew member was asked to rig pilot ladder alone, he was later found missing from place together with ladder, perhaps he slipped overboard and lost his life. How this accident could have been prevented? Working in team and a use of a life line could have prevented this fatality.

The incident and accident data of industries are readily available because governing body is controlling them, but in shipping not much information and data available about incidents and accidents on board. Companies don’t share them on common platform or with each other. Perhaps it is believed that it would diminish organization’s reputation, it is cumulative loss to shipping industry and its community.

Annual fatality data is published by labour department worldwide, as per USA department of Labour, there were 631 deaths in USA construction industry in 2016. There were 60 fatal injuries in UK in 2016/17. Reason of fatal injuries are mainly 4 and are called “Fatal Four”, if  these can be eliminated then lives could be saved.

Fatal Four;

  • Falls
  • Struck by Object
  • Electrocutions
  • Caught-in/between

Reasons of non fatal injury;

  • Slips, Trips, Falls
  • Injury while handling, lifting carrying
  • Falls from a height
  • Struck by moving or falling object

Why tool box meeting is needed?

If we have to prevent accidents and incidents, basic safety rule of risk awareness, elimination of it and minimise hazard has to be adhered. Pre job briefing or informal meeting to Safety meetings will typically take approximately ten minutes to present and should not last longer than twenty 20 minutes. If needed it can be carried out in during the job any time when ant new hazard or near miss is detected. The purpose and approach of tool box meeting should be;

  1. Know the job & procedure.
  2. Know the team members.
  3. Get proper permit for hot work, aloft work, heavy lift etc.
  4. Log out Lock out of equipment.
  5. Use common language for discussion and or use translation to make every one understand.
  6. Discuss recent incidents and near misses.
  7. Hazards and risk controls for work activities are highlighted.
  8. Check and familiarise with tools and equipment.
  9. Interdepartmental communication if more than 1 department is involved in job.
  10. Know the risk involved and eliminate or avoid them.
  11. Ask group member about possible hazard in the task.
  12. It should be short but frequent.
  13. And offer training if required.
  14. Discuss site condition.


  1. Do long meeting.
  2. Underestimate anyone’s contribution.
  3. Ignore any even small hazard.
  4. Insult any member if he had not followed any procedure in past.
  5. Forget to lock out the equipment to be worked upon.

A job can be planned or unplanned, it all depends upon the situation, but a job can be performed safely and accident free if it is carried out after tool box meeting. For a planned task there is always sufficient scheduled time and opportunity to carry out tool box meeting. However for un unplanned task, due to breakdown or emergency, we miss to carry out tool  box meeting. Even for breakdown and emergencies, a brief tool box meeting must always be performed if possible. Regular drills and exercises are held in organisations to deal with breakdown and emergencies, which are similar to toolbox meeting and a part of training to improve safety awareness and prevent fatality.


Categories: Crew matters, Eng & Tech, Safety, Service experience

Tags: , , , ,

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