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Holding safety tailgate talks – short, informal meetings – on a regular basis is an effective way to help keep workers safe, plus build a strong safety culture. These talks serve a multitude of purposes, including:
- Prevent workers from becoming complacent and taking safety for granted.
- Refresh workers knowledge on safe work practices and procedures.
- Remind workers of particular jobsite risks and hazards.
- Make known recent changes to the jobsite and working conditions.
- Provide training on new safety rules and regulations.
- Discuss any recent injuries and/or accidents and how they could have been prevented.
To make any difference in promoting a company’s safety culture, safety tailgate talks must be effective, says Abby Ferri, vice president, national construction practice, Hays Companies, a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based risk management, insurance and employee benefits advisor. Too often, she says, tailgate talks are canned and not relevant, or they are given perfunctorily, with little thought to the subject matter being presented or how the information is being delivered. Consequently, such tailgate talks have little, if any, impact.
Tips for Effective Tailgate Talks
Ferri conducted six Tailgate Talks sessions while walking the floor with attendees at the ICUEE 2019, October 1-3, in Louisville, Kentucky. (ICUEE is now known as The Utility Expo.) Along with focusing on a range of safety topics, she offered insight, advice and recommendations for making safety tailgate talks more meaningful.
“Tailgate talks are most effective when they are interactive and collaborative rather than when a supervisor takes a lecture approach or talks about a topic that doesn’t relate,” says Ferri, who has been actively involved in construction safety for more than 16 years. Engage participants. Get them involved. Ask them questions. Have them ask questions. Have them tell related personal experiences.
People learn best when they have the opportunity to share their experiences and bring their on-the-job knowledge to training, she says. Learning research has discovered that adults benefit most from experiences that are problem based and two-way.
Ferri says the following are always good topics for safety tailgate talks:
- Stay Topical: Look at the National Safety Council’s Safety Observance and Event Calendar and develop a talk about each monthly safety focus.
- Why Accidents Occur: Review the key reasons – typically unsafe acts, unsafe conditions, improper tools and/or materials – that cause accidents to occur.
- On and Off the Job: Select topics that relate to safety on and off the job, for example distracted driving. “The idea is to have workers bring safety information home to share with others,” says. “The objective is to have them incorporate safety into all aspects of their lives.”
- Situational Awareness: Especially after an incident, have workers share how the incident could have been avoided. Also, discuss how they can be more aware of what is happening around them and how to better gauge if anyone or anything around them is a threat to their health and safety.
- Safety Issues: Review any current safety issues and get suggestions on how these issues can be mitigated.
- Fall Protection: Because falls are a leading cause of serious injuries and fatalities in the construction industry, talking about best practices to avoid falls in the workplace never gets old.
- Safe Driving Topics: Regardless of how skilled a driver may be, it is always good to review safe driving basics from time to time. Topics for discussion include blind spots, impaired driving, mirror adjustment, driving in inclement weather, stopping for school buses, distracted driving, impaired driving and right of way.
ABOUT THE UTILITY EXPO
Formerly known as ICUEE, The Utility Expo is the largest event for utility professionals and construction contractors seeking comprehensive insights into the latest industry technologies, innovations and trends. The biennial trade show, known for equipment test drives and interactive product demonstrations, takes place in Louisville, KY. The next edition will be September 28-30, 2021.