Tool Box Talk – 3-Way Communication For Construction

Mutual understanding is essential in the construction environment. Elevated work, heavy equipment and ever changing environments are just part of the construction environment. The ability to most effectively communicate to co-workers is a must. In order to ensure good messaging the responsibility for proper communication is primarily that of the originator or sender who must verify the receiver understands the message as intended. Each message that is directive in nature must use three-way communication and begins when:

  1. The sender gets the attention of the intended receiver by using the person’s name and speaks the message
  2. The receiver repeats the message in a paraphrased form which helps the sender verify the receiver heard and understood the message
  3. The sender acknowledges the receiver heard and understood the message.

When the receiver paraphrases the message inclusive of, specific equipment, precise intended actions, or information these are to be repeated back exactly as spoken.

The third leg of the communication is often the weakest link, since the sender is tempted to pay attention to the receiver’s statement and assumes the person heard their message. This is a big assumption. If the receiver does not receive acknowledgement from the send, he/she should be assertive and ask the sender to complete the third leg. Feedback is necessary for verification of understanding of each spoken message.

Verbal Information that is directive in nature is exchanged between people via face-to-face, telephone or radio regarding one or more of the following:

  • Status of situation, equipment, structure, or components
  • Direction to perform actions
  • Work instructions


  1. Using slang terms instead of specific or standard terms
  2. Sender not taking responsibility for what is said and heard
  3. Not stating his/her name and work location (sender or receiver) when using a telephone/radio
  4. Receiver’s name not used by the sender to get receiver’s attention
  5. Attempting to communicate with someone already engaged in another conversation
  6. Failing to verify receiver accepted and understood the message
  7. Message not stated clearly (such as not loud enough or poor enunciation)
  8. Receiver not verifying understanding with sender, reluctance to ask questions in group
  9. Speaking from behind the person intended to receive the message
  10. Receiver does not write down message if more than two items are to be remembered
  11. Conflict between what is said (content of message) and the nonverbal cues of the sender