The Magazine of American Municipal Power, Inc. and its Member Communities


Tailgate Meeting

3 min read



May 2017

“We’re in an industry where the job changes frequently,” explained Jim Eberly, AMP safety and OSHA compliance coordinator. “Locations can change, the actual tasks can change – it’s a constant cycle. If not addressed, these changing conditions can put workers’ safety in jeopardy. This is where the tailgate meeting comes into play.”

The term “tailgate meeting” is derived from where the meetings typically take place – at or around the tailgate of a utility vehicle. The talks are also referred to as toolbox talks, tail board meetings and job site safety briefings.

The meeting consists of an assessment of safety and health conditions related to a specific job or task. Each is approximately 10 to 15 minutes long and should take place at the beginning of a job or task – any time new work is started, new crew members are added or at the beginning of a new day on the same job site.

“Tailgate meetings help ensure the safety of the crew, the people around you and the traffic that passes by,” said Eberly. “They help make everyone aware of the potential dangers and other hazards to watch out for.”

The employee in charge, often a foreman, will facilitate the meetings. He or she will address specific procedures, equipment and potential dangers that could arise while completing the required tasks of the day. Documentation of the meeting is considered a best practice, and the American Public Power Association (APPA) offers a number of tailgate forms that can be used to document the meeting.

The Occupational Safety and Health Association Section 1910.269(c) mandates a job briefing and also explains that at times when work is to be performed alone, a job plan must be followed to account for various hazards.

The APPA Safety Manual, 16th edition, stresses the importance of tailgate meetings. According to section 115.5 of the manual, the following are the critical components of an effective talk:

  • Hazards associated with job equipment. Before going out on the job site, the equipment that will be used to complete the day’s tasks needs to be addressed. This includes identifying what specific equipment the crew will use to complete the task(s), as well as any potential injury or harm that could occur as a result of being around and working with the equipment.
  • Work procedures involved. The tasks to complete (in sequence), the steps the crew should take to complete the tasks safely and what to look out for should be addressed and discussed in depth. OSHA 1910.269(c) also states it is necessary to discuss when a task requires two people to perform it.
  • Special precautions and risk mitigation. It is important to identify any potential hazards that might arise and precautions that should be taken to avoid those hazards. These include traffic, weather and other conditional site characteristics that could impact how the day’s tasks are carried out.
  • Energy source and hazard controls. Before going out on the site, workers need to know if the site is energized or de-energized, and the voltages with which they will be working. This will help ensure that they approach the site and the potential electrical dangers within accordingly.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements. The discussion should address the necessary protective measures to be taken. This includes gloves, gear and other clothing items, as well as the use of harnesses and other safety equipment when necessary.
  • Emergency response information. This portion of the talk should address appropriate protocols to follow should an emergency arise. Procedures need to be laid out to let workers know under what conditions they are to perform first aid or CPR, when to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) and when to call 9-1-1.

According to best practices outlined in the safety manual, a minimum of one tailgate meeting should take place at the start of each day if the work is “repetitive or similar.” Additional briefings should also be held as necessary throughout the day to address significant changes that occur as the workday progresses. These significant changes could be inclement weather, changing conditions or an alteration in the nature of the tasks at hand. Additionally, if a hazard that is not addressed during the job briefing is identified by a member of the crew during work activity, the supervisor must address and resolve that hazard.

“We stress the importance of tailgate meetings during our regularly scheduled safety training,” said Eberly.

While it is difficult to prepare for every situation, an effective tailgate meeting can help employers safeguard their workers from the on-the-job hazards routinely faced and better prepare the team for unanticipated circumstances that arise.

To learn about safety training opportunities, visit the safety programs page of the AMP website.