Solar field crews face a variety of safety risks every day on the job. From tools and equipment to heights and electrical hazards, solar technicians need to be well-versed in recognizing potential dangers in their workplace and understanding what to do to minimize them.
Although tools such as a job hazard analysis can be useful in helping identify and document risks, nothing replaces a well-structured tailgate meeting to ensure safety awareness is top of mind before a job.
What is a Tailgate Meeting?
Safeopedia defines a tailgate meeting (otherwise known as a toolbox talk) as an informal onsite safety meeting that is delivered before the start of the job/shift. These are brief, 15-minute talks that a supervisor gives right before the crew begins work that day, and can cover a number of different topics. The goal of these gatherings is to inform workers on how to respond a given hazard of topic and remind them of general safety best practices.
How to Manage Tailgate Meetings
Tailgate meeting formats can vary from company to company, and there are many resources on the internet on how to conduct a tailgate talk. However, we are going to take a step back and share a few best practices on how solar team directors or executives should manage the execution of these safety meetings:
1. Plan Out Your Safety Topics
There are two key ways you can do this: with a set schedule or by reflection.
With a set schedule…
- Develop an exhaustive list of safety topics that every worker requires training on.
- Assign each topic to a different day or week in the year.
This ensures that employees are always exposed to a new topic each time within their first year. By the time they cycle back to the first topic, they would be due for a refresher anyway or may be in a position to give the talk instead.
The second method involves a shorter time period; for example, a quarter instead of a year.
- Once a quarter, reflect on the accident records of that past quarter to determine which topics are the most important to go over in the next quarter. It’s helpful to do this step with key supervisors on your team.
- Ensure there is a mixture of priority topics from your analysis as well as new topics that employees have yet to go through.
- Reveal the next quarter’s set of safety topics to all supervisors and ensure updated training is provided for each topic.
The advantage with this method is that you can ensure proper review of incident-related topics that might not have been absorbed as well the first time can be covered again to prevent similar accidents from happening.
2. Train your Supervisors on Tailgate Meeting Prep & Delivery
Ensure your supervisors are knowledgeable of best practices when it comes to presenting safety talks. These include:
- Using visuals. You or the supervisor can create simple 1-pagers that show diagrams and bullet points where possible to help employees absorb and retain the new information.
- Keep the talk interactive. Your supervisor should be comfortable facilitating a conversation and encouraging questions on the topic. This is more effective than a one-sided lecture.
- Using “Do & Don’t” lists. Covering both sides will help crew members understand where the boundary is between what to do and what not to do. Defining this line enables crew members to better extrapolate correct and incorrect actions.
- Conduct the talks at the worksite. Supervisors can use the opportunity to point out hazards so that employees are more cognizant of them while working.
- Create a brief outline for the supervisor. This ensures that they will not forget any key points discussed in regards to the safety topic.
3. Track Tailgate Meeting Completion
As a manager, you are responsible for the safety of your employees. With that comes the need to supervise the development of your team’s safety repertoire so you know they are equipped with the knowledge to prevent injuries. Here are some key suggestions to help you better track and manage a tailgate meeting:
- Use a mobile field data collection solution that provides supervisors with an outline of details to cover per safety topic. By being able to access meeting topic outlines in the field, your supervisors can rest assured that they have the latest list of points to cover in that tailgate meeting.
- Have a system for employees to sign off at the end of each talk. Again, this is most effective in a mobile app solution where your supervisors won’t have to manage (and eventually lose) attendance sheets. At the same time, you’ll be able to see who has attended which talk and look for correlations between workplace incidents and the injured employee’s level of safety training.
- Utilize technology to track the safety training progress of multiple employees. By feeding attendance data into a dashboard, you can quickly see where an employee’s knowledge gap is and have it corrected if necessary.
Using a technological solution to track tailgate meeting completion gives you a whole arsenal of data to better ensure that safety always remains #1 for your supervisors and field crews.