Tailgate Safety Training Compliance

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.

A landscaper from Pennsylvania called me the other day to talk about her company’s OSHA Tailgate Safety Training record-keeping procedures.  We all know the importance of detailed record-keeping throughout a company’s human resources program; that standard remains constant when discussing safety training necessary to defend one’s company against inevitable OSHA claims.

State laws notwithstanding, OSHA has no specific standard or language that requires a company to hold safety tailgate sessions, whether that is daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. That being said, there is legal jargon in OSHA’s standards that could be used as an argument to do so.

Title 29, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 1926 for Construction, 1926.21(b)(2) states, “The employer shall instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to his work environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury.”  While tailgate sessions are not officially considered “safety training” by many companies, they can be used as a best practice that supports a company’s safety training program which in turn can help fill in gaps regarding the specific requirements mentioned in the standard above.

Bottom line:  Do tailgate safety training.

Aside from other vital OSHA record keeping paperwork (e.g., OSHA 300, SDS listings, equipment, and vehicle preventive maintenance schedules), there are three primary documents a company should have available at all times to defend its tailgate safety training program:  The annual training calendar, the training content for each tailgate safety training session, and the sign-in sheet for each delivered safety tailgate session.

The annual training calendar is usually a one-page Word document summarizing the weekly safety training topic scheduled to be delivered throughout a calendar year.  The value of this document is that it conveys the company’s historical, current, and anticipated commitment to employee safety training; a commitment capable of conveying a sustained “good faith” effort to comply with OSHA training compliance expectations.  

Within the training calendar, the company must have the actual training content delivered to the employees, available for review, to determine its validity and legal defensibility.   To that end, I am reminded of a story where a company’s Mow Crew Laborer stuck his hand under a live 21” lawnmower to dislodge a branch that prevented its blade from turning.  

He dislodged the branch.  Predictably, the blade then began to turn.  Naturally, the blade cut off several of his fingers.  After he bellowed “Ouch” he and his attorney claimed the Laborer was never trained to NOT put his hand under a live lawn mower.  (Yes.  You read that correctly).  Thanks to a well-designed safety program and meticulous record-keeping, the company refuted the false lawsuit by presenting actual content of the lawnmower training session explicitly instructing employees to NEVER put their hand under a live lawnmower.

That scenario also relied on the third key tailgate safety training document, the actual employee sign-in sheet that captured the date the tailgate session was delivered (which aligned perfectly with the annual training calendar) supported by the Mow Crew Laborer’s name, signature, and employee number.   Every employee who attends a tailgate safety training session must be required to add his/her name to the sign-in sheet.  It is noteworthy to mention that during an OSHA audit, it is not uncommon for the OSHA auditor to demand the names of all employees who attended a given training tailgate session, as well as the entire training history for certain employees.  Clearly, the Tailgate Safety Training Sign-in Sheet is capable of satisfying both requests.

Revised bottom line:  Do tailgate safety training and keep accurate tailgate safety training records.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.