Paying Attention to Employee burnout

Paying Attention to Employee burnout

Employee burnout has been a subject of debate for years. In 2019 WHO updated its definition of Burnout to be “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” 

It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.


Although burnout is typically associated with medical professionals, first responders, and business executives, it can actually show up in any profession. Employee burnout can stem from working in isolation, balancing household and work challenges all at once, or trying not to appear “weak”. 

Identifying Employee Burnout

Expecting employees to convey burnout may be optimistic. Many are not content speaking about what they think is a personal difficult, especially when they might "just be thankful they have a job."

Only a small number of employees confided about their mental health to HR for fear of being perceived as unproductive or losing their jobs.

But if organizations keep their ear to the ground, they will find trouble brewing among employees and can mitigate any risks that show up when not addressed properly. 

This would be a great topic to address in a toolbox talk. An open discussion on how workers are handling workplace tasks on a regular basis helps alleviate the stress being placed on performance. 

The Mayo Clinic suggests these questions be asked to find out potential employee burn out: 

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you find it hard to concentrate?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits changed?


Statics have shown 23% of workers have felt burned out more often than not while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes.  

Although there are no OSHA regulations around employee burnout or policies for dealing with workers affected by burnout, studies suggest that employee burnout has the potential to impact many aspects of work performance and safety. 

Burnout employees have less awareness of their surroundings and struggle to maintain workplace safety practices. This can result in 

  • Misusing equipment
  • Delaying emergency responses
  • Poor driving
  • Employee fighting
  • Issues caused by getting behind on work-related tasks.


If left unaddressed, a burned-out employee has the potential to be an unsafe worker which could lead to a workplace accident that affects other employees who suffer injuries.

How You Can Support Burned-out Employees

Organizations that have managed to stay on top of things identified this and began reinforcing vacations to combat burnout, amongst other measures such as:

  1. Add a day off to a long weekend. Ask your employees to take Friday off before a long weekend, specifically to address burnout. 
  2. Ask employees to share leaves with their co-workers. This can come as a relief to many employees anxious about the pandemic and its impact on their health.
  3. If it's too much, try different innovations in small groups. Like Friday afternoons off. It can help to take a break and refresh over the weekend. Such a benefit once or twice a month can help employees recharge and stay productive and focused.
  4. Assist employees with childcare challenges. Parents will now be dealing with children returning to the virtual classroom. Incorporate things like a flexible schedule, a compressed workweek, leaves, and protected time where they are not interrupted by their co-workers.

What works for other organizations may not work for yours and vice versa. It's time to open up the conversation and learn the difficulties employees have to manage. Offering support for their most pressing challenges and dealing with mental health concerns is the only meaningful way to support them.



wearing face masks at work

Toolbox Talk: Wearing face masks to protect against disease

As defined by the CDC, masks are a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and land on other people. They protect against coughing, sneezing, talking, or when people raise their voices. It is known as source control and is all based on what we know about respiratory spray and the spread of the viruses such as COVID-19, paired with developing evidence from clinical studies that determine masks decrease the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth. 

 Face masks are particularly important in settings where people are close to each other or where social distancing is challenging to maintain. Employees working by themselves may remove the mask when machines are elevated and outside contact with any other person. If the employee gets within 6ft or less of another person, such as someone entering the machine platform, the mask must be worn to avoid exposure.

Here are common questions you can address about wearing face masks at a Toolbox Talk 

  • When should you wear a mask? Whenever you're in crowded situations, at the supermarket, in shops and anywhere indoors or outdoors where you're likely to contact people. On the job, wear a face covering over your nose and mouth. If you perform a task requiring a respirator, face shield, or equivalent PPE according to safety guidelines, wear the appropriate PPE. A cloth face covering or surgical mask is not a replacement for a respirator or face shield when one is required.
  • How should it fit? Masks need to have a snug fit to be useful. It needs to be reasonably snug to block droplets coming out of your mouth and nose.
  • Who shouldn't wear a mask? There is an exception for younger children; there are also exemptions for some people with health conditions or disabilities and those who assist them. As an example, if you are hearing impaired and rely on lip-reading, you're companions may not wear a mask. If you feel shortness of breath or that you're overheating by wearing the mask, feel free to remove your face covering when no one is closer than 6ft and remember to do this as you believe is necessary.
  • How many times can you wear a disposable mask? These masks should only be used once. In comparison, a cloth mask can have a better fit and can be reused as many times as needed.
  • Which mask is best? The FFP3 respirator masks provide the maximum protection for the wearer. This mask is generally much more than what is needed, and they are in limited supply. For the public, experts advise cloth masks, preferably with any tightly woven fabric. Avoid masks with holes in them for ventilation.
  • What steps should you take before touching your mask? Medical advice says to clean your hands before placing your mask on. When you take your mask off, use the straps rather than the fabric. Try to avoid touching the mask area.
  • How should I store or carry a mask? The chance of picking up an infection from your mask is low; you'll still want to keep it as clean as possible. It is recommended to store your mask in a plastic bag to ensure that it is secluded from everything else. Alternatively, wrap it in some fabric.
  • How often should you wash your mask? Ideally, it would be best to wash your mask after every use in the laundry's hot temperature setting. The world health organization advises boiling your face masks for one minute if it has been hand washed in room temperature water.


Toolbox Talk: Social Distancing

Social distancing is a set of administrative actions designed to stop or reduce the spread of a contagious disease. You can help protect yourself and others by adjusting your daily habits to decrease close contact with others. While self-isolating in your home is the most desirable control for avoiding exposure to a contagious disease, this is not always possible.

Social distancing is not social isolation. Did you know that it is a useful strategy to prevent the spread of COVID-19, or any other virus when you distance yourself physically from others? Social distancing's effectiveness is proven to work because it limits the potential for COVID-19 to spread during close unprotected contact between an infected person and uninfected people. Individuals infected with COVID-19 may exhibit little to no symptoms of the virus. Without social distancing, they may unknowingly spread the virus to others around them.

You should know that physical distancing involves making changes in your everyday routines to minimize close contact with others in your community. You should maintain a distance of at least two arms lengths (approximately 2 meters) from others. Steer clear of crowded places and non-essential gatherings. Replace social gestures that require physical contact (handshakes, hugs, kisses) with new creative ways of showing affection or salutations.

How can we work together to keep our job sites safe?

  • When you arrive on-site, before heading to your specific work area, identify others working on-site, and plan the best route to maintain social distancing.
  • When possible, avoid tool sharing.
  • Wear cloth face coverings in settings where other social distancing measures are challenging to maintain, such as tasks that require close contact with others.
  • Conduct meetings in small groups, ten (10) people or less, and when possible, host them outdoors.
  • Stagger breaks and lunches, limit the size of any group at any one time to ten (10) people or less.
  • Don't use common sources of drinking water or share cups or bottles.
  • Minimize ridesharing. But, if you do have to share a vehicle, ensure adequate ventilation and adequately clean and disinfect high touch surfaces on the interior after transport.
  • Avoid having multiple employees on lifts and scaffolds, which require less than 6 feet distance.
  • Regularly clean surfaces and tools
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Using soap and water is the single most effective way of reducing the spread of infection. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer.
  • Do not touch your face, eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with the crease of your elbow or a tissue when you sneeze or cough. Dispose of tissue immediately and wash or sanitize your hand.


By following these tips, we ALL can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and continue to work safely.


Toolbox Talk: Watching out for Heat Stress

Working in extreme heat can cause occupational injuries and accidents. Heat stress can cause medical conditions like heat stroke, exhaustion and cramps, and accidents can result from dizziness, sweaty palms, and falls. In this toolbox talk, highlight measures to prevent heat stress and symptoms to look out for while working in hot conditions. 

Watch for signs of heat stress in yourself and your fellow workers. Most of the time, they may not realize what is happening to them until heat sickness strikes. If signs of heat sickness occur, help the victim cool off by removing them to a cool place, fanning them, or soaking them with a cool, damp cloth.

When your body expends too much sweat through heavy work or working in hot conditions, you can become dehydrated. Your temperature can rise above 38C if your body doesn't have enough water to cool itself down. That's when a heat-related illness can emerge; Heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. The two illnesses of concern while working in hot climates are heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Heat Exhaustion happens when your body can no longer keep blood flowing to vital organs and cooling skin.

Signs of heat exhaustion

  • Dizziness, feeling faint.
  • Headache
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Trouble resuming work



  • Get medical care and try to cool down (drink cool water, get out of the sun, and loosen your clothes.
  • Stay out of the sun for at least 30 minutes to cool the body down from heat exhaustion. If not treated quickly, it can worsen to heatstroke.


Heat Stroke is a medical emergency and happens when your body has used all of its water and salt and can no longer cool itself. Your temperature rises to dangerous levels.

  • Symptoms
  • Confusion and irrational behaviour
  • Convulsions or loss of consciousness
  • Lack of sweating—hot, dry skin
  • High body temperature—40°C or more.


If a co-worker shows symptoms of heatstroke, act fast.

  • Call the emergency number or get them to a hospital.
  • Immediately start to cool the worker down, get them to a cool location and bring down their temperature by fanning them or placing cool, damp towels on them.
  • If they are unconscious, don't give them anything to drink.


Every spring, the temperature begins to increase, and that presents new hazards that could go unrecognized. Don't overload yourself. Give yourself the time required to adapt to the heat. Below are some tips for managing heat in the workplace.

  • If your situation allows for it to wear light, loose clothing that lets sweat evaporate. Light-coloured clothing doesn't absorb as much heat from the sun.
  • Drink at least 1 cup (250 ml) of water every half hour. Don't wait until you're thirsty.
  • Avoid drinking beverages that make you have to go to the bathroom, such as coffee, tea, beer, or carbonated soft drinks. These are diuretics and dehydrate you further.
  • Avoid eating large meals, which can increase your body temperature.
  • Plan your heavy physical work first in the day before it starts getting hot.
  • Be observant of the symptoms of heat stress in yourself and your co-workers.


Remember that your physical condition can reduce your ability to deal with the heat. Age, weight, fitness level, health conditions, recent illness, or medications can affect your capability to endure working in high temperatures.


Increasing the Frequency of ToolBox Talks – why and how

Some call them toolbox talks, others call them safety meetings or safety briefs. Whatever you decide to call them, the outcome is always positive when workers are informed about safety on a regular basis. They cover a variety of different topics but are typically centered around safety for that particular worksite. In our ultimate guide to toolbox talks, we have over 365 toolbox talk ideas that you can cover for everyday of the year. 

Making these toolbox talk interesting is very important.  Engaging toolbox talks can help champion workers into collaboration where they will continue to talk about it long after the meeting is over. Keep reading to find out why toolbox talks are so important to the workplace. 

Why Frequency Matters

Do you know how much money is lost every year due to unplanned work stoppages caused by occupational injury? In North America alone, it's over $365B. These costs are measured in lost productivity as well as indirect costs like insurance, hours lost to shutdowns, delay penalties, re-training new workers, project schedule adjustments, etc.

The costs of injuries are staggering, so anything we can do to reduce them is worthy.

Can you brief employees on safety too much? No matter what you may have heard, there is no negative effect on conducting daily toolbox safety talks. The less frequently this type of training is conducted and the fewer safety topics covered, the higher the lagging indicators. 

Data shows that an increased frequency of toolbox talks from a monthly meeting to a daily meeting has the potential to decrease Total Recordable Incident Rates (TRIR) by up to 85%. If you happen to perform toolbox talks weekly then the increase to daily has the potential to decrease TRIR by up to 72.8%.

“Starting each day with a toolbox safety talk not only reinforces those general safe work expectations and obligations, but more importantly, demonstrates to the workforce the importance of putting safety first each and every day.”

Tackling the Administrative burden

Of course,  it's very easy to say perform a toolbox talk daily. It can be a full time job performing a weekly or monthly toolbox talk schedule let alone a daily one.  

Searching for and digging up new content to deliver to your workers, preparing it into a digestible format, like a print out or emailed PDF, ensuring that it's being discussed on site and that your workers understand the content, is all a lot of work. 

This becomes a daunting task for anyone to perform, even without the rest of your job. And what ends up happening is you ultimately fail at it because you simply don't have enough hours in the day to get it all done. You also likely don’t have a method in which to measure your ROI, and unless you're able to keep this up for a full year, where you can compare WCB claims, you won't really know if it had an impact on your incident rate.The increased frequency soon derails and you’re back to weekly or monthly on status quo.

Some companies that do perform daily toolbox talks have a dedicated team in place in order to do all of this work. While they are in a position where they can afford it too, not every organization has the luxury of a toolbox talk team to create and deliver content and measure the results.

The power of innovation at this moment in time is awesome. You can set up an initiative and put it on autopilot so that you can check it when you have time and make the corrections that you need to along the way. Having a system automate the collection of the information and allow you to put the work in once, at the beginning of an initiative allows you to start implementing the next initiative while you gather the data from the first. 

This is exactly what the SafetyTek Content Delivery System allows you to do. Toolbox Talks can be added in any media format, be it you recording a video with your phone, or on a PDF. You can then utilize the system to track the delivery, opens, time spent consuming the media, as well as sign offs for any particular piece of content that you wish to track. 

In Summary

Toolbox talks are one of the best ways to educate your workforce about known hazards that they come across on a daily basis. Hours are spent developing the content, delivering it to the field, and collecting the confirmations that field workers have run through the content. 

Tracking whether or not your workers have read the content usually takes up a lot of time. While it is often a painful process, data shows how very necessary it is. 

Systems like Safetytek’s Content Delivery Systems can help you increase the number of Toolbox talks you conduct, and help you eliminate all the paperwork that comes with it. 

For more information about how we can help with your toolbox talks and how our systems can remove the massive administrative burdens, get in touch with us.