Better Tailgate Meetings: Building Blocks & A Bonus Tip

Tailgate meetings are ubiquitous in the world of safety and rescue.  We participate without batting an eye, and can fill out familiar paperwork flawlessly, even if we’re half asleep.

But here’s the rub: this paperwork could save your skin, and it will likely be on a random day for an unexpected reason. That’s the point of thrusting an objective commentator into the midst of your morning routine. It’s a splash of cold water that shocks you out of your own body for a moment, so that you can see the situation you’re about to undertake in a fresh way.

“I picture the origin of tailgate meetings stemming from cowboys, sitting on the back of the pickup truck after driving out to the fenceline where the horses got out last night,” says Instructor Trainer, Chad Guenter. “They know they’ve got to pound some posts in, and they’ve always done it the same way with Bill working the sledgehammer.  Except last night, Bill was out all night wrangling, and you’re skeptical that he can keep that sledgehammer from connecting with your arm. Now’s the time to speak up.”

What is the ultimate purpose of a tailgate meeting?

  • It sets the tone for the day
  • It gives the supervisor an opportunity to see where the crew is at mentally and physically
  • It helps ensure that what’s asked of workers is feasible, given the circumstances
  • It puts many eyes on the same situation, which means a greater chance of catching all the hazards

“I’ve heard workers groan at the mention of tailgate meetings,” says Chad.  “They say it slows down work, doesn’t really apply to them, or takes up their coffee time.  Hopefully you get paid by the hour so embrace the meeting, the safety culture and enjoy your coffee while getting paid!”

6 Building Blocks For A Solid Tailgate Meeting

Here are the critical building blocks of a tailgate meeting. We offer a few discipline-specific safety briefing forms for free download at Raven Safety, but you could also use the building blocks below to design a document unique to your needs.

General Information

  • Time & Date
  • Site location
  • More specifically – Location of work
  • What contractor is doing the work?
  • Supervisor & Workers doing the job
  • Contact numbers
  • Contractor Emergency Action Plan (or how to initiate it if it’s a site wide plan)

Job Specific Information

  • What work is being done? 
  • What tools are needed?
  • Are there any specific risks that need specific tools or specific training? (ie: fall protection or confined space entry)

Risk And Hazard Analysis

  • Risk Assessment
  • Is it hot work? (work that can create a spark, welding, cutting, brazing, soldering, burning, grinding etc)
  • Hazard Identification
  • Hazard controls


  • General work PPE
  • Job specific PPE


  • What forms of communication will you use during work?
  • What forms of communication will you use during an emergency?
  • How do you plan to coordinate work with other contractors on site?  (ie: is there another contractor in your immediate our outlying work area that may share space, require stoppage of work at certain times due to machinery, hot work or anything else that may interfere with the work of the Primary Contractor)

Final Sign-Off

  • Print name & Signatures of Supervisor 
  • Print name & Signatures of Attendees (workers) (in case names need to be clarified by a court of law in a workplace accident, signatures alone can be hard to decipher)

Bonus Tip To Keep Your Tailgate Meetings Fresh

After filling out your form, take a moment for questions and answers. This is an opportunity for learning and growth, for everyone present. Be wary of “risky shift”, where junior members subdue their concerns in deference to senior members that seem comfortable with the circumstances at hand – don’t forget that senior members face the temptation every day to make unsafe choices to impress the new kids.

“A great way of putting a fresh spin on these Q and A times is to reivew a case study of similar work,” suggests Chad.  “This is an opportunity learn and avoid.”

Finally, ensure everyone’s awareness of relevant safe work practices, regulations and guidelines.