Forest Industry Safety & Training Alliance, Inc.

February 2015

Choo Choo!  Here Comes the Train-ing!

At one time in history, the caboose was nearly as popular to train enthusiasts as the bellowing engine.  Nowadays, it’s rare to see a caboose following behind a variety of cars.  In days gone by, the caboose WAS to the train, as the tailgate IS, well, SHOULD BE, to training…safety training that is. you were to spend time reading through OSHA’s Regulations and Standards section 1910.266 – Logging Operations, you would see, way down at the bottom, a section entitled “Training” section 1910.266(i)(1) where it is REQUIRED to have “Safety and Health Meetings” section 1910.266(j).  This section reads as followed

The employer shall hold safety and health meetings as necessary and at least each month for each employee. Safety and health meetings may be conducted individually, in crew meetings, in larger groups, or as part of other staff meetings

Hopefully, we are already doing this as required.  Truth be told, I know not everyone does.  Of the ones that do, some fail to document these meetings, which is just as important as holding the meeting.

Tailgate training is a very effective way to reduce your injury rate and injury related costs.  With fewer injuries, associated costs of retaining or replacing quality workers are also reduced.  Although monthly meetings are all that is required of OSHA, weekly training has been proven to be dramatically more effective, and shows your workers that safety is a very high priority to you and your operation, not to mention increasing communication and collaboration regarding safety.  A documented tailgate safety training program is also proof of your commitment to safety in the event of a lawsuit or OSHA inspection in connection to an alleged violation.

So what is “tailgate training”?  Tailgate training is NOT a lecture on safety; it IS a short, 10-15 minute, informal training session that focuses on one topic, relevant to that day’s assignments.  Keeping to a single topic each session helps keep the information more digestible to the workers.  Groups should be kept to less than 10 and be held in-woods, on the job.  When the weather is good, the tailgate of your pick-up is an ideal place to gather, (hence the name) whereas, in the dead of winter when snow covers the ground, the warming fire near the log deck is another great location.   Decide on a specific time to hold the training as well.  Earlier in the week is better but avoid Monday mornings.  Next, let’s touch on what makes a successful tailgate training program. order for your weekly tailgate training program to be effective, don’t stop and start the training program or slack off when the workload is high.  Stay consistent; keep the training regular and relevant.  Selecting and preparing a relevant topic can be as simple as reviewing your accident records or reviewing an accident report in a newsletter or article.  Walking around your operation, looking for potential hazards can also help you determine good topics for discussion.  Guide sheets for safety meeting topics are also helpful and the internet is full of them!  Most of the FISTA Report articles are designed to be good tailgate training topics as well.  Don’t forget to prepare!  Just “winging it” won’t cut it for an effective tailgate training program.  Read through the material you are to present the night before, photocopy any hand out materials ahead of time and use visual aids when possible.
Encourage the crew to take turns leading or participating in the training to make them an active part of the program and increase engagement.  Speaking or leading may or may not be a good way to encourage participation, especially if the crewman is monotone or nervous speaking in front of others.  If this is the case, there are other ways to increase involvement.  For example, if the topic is PPE for fungicide application, have the crewman properly put on and remove the PPE.  Asking employees for ideas on topic selection or asking them to summarize the training into “Do’s and Don’ts” is another way to include them.

Regardless of who is conducting the training, ensure the presenter doesn’t lecture or talk down to the employees.  Use language and terminology understandable to the workers.  Instructing in a condescending manner does nothing to encourage a positive attitude toward safety training.  The leader of the training should also be a respected leader or peer.

Finally, allow time for questions and discussion following the training.  It is important that the information presented is understood completely.  Just as importantly, document the training.  Keep an attendance sheet on file that lists the topic covered and signatures of everyone in attendance.  In addition to the attendance sheet, retain any visual aids or handouts used in the session so that you are already prepared for the next time you cover the subject. of training, FISTA’s 2015 SFI Training Workshop brochure is included in this month’s issue of TPA.  If you’ve attended a session with us in the last three years, you will also be receiving a copy in your mailbox.  Be sure to locate the training session best suited for you and register early to save your seat!  With break-up right around the corner and everyone operating at full capacity for that last winter push, don’t put a safe operation on the back burner.  See you in training later this year!

Ben Parsons, FISTA Training Coordinator, is originally from West “By God”, Virginia as they say in that part of the Appalachian Mountains. His family’s deeply rooted philosophy of living off the land was monumental in deciding to earn a degree in Forest Management from West Virginia University.  Throughout his career, Ben has had the opportunity to tackle a wide variety of assignments.  He measured Forest Inventory and Analysis research plots in Virginia and Georgia, been involved with urban and utility forestry operations throughout the Appalachian region, procured lowland hardwood timber in the swamps of South Georgia, managed logging contracts and harvest operations in Arkansas and specialized in water quality and harvest planning as well as fighting forest fires in Virginia. As FISTA Training Coordinator, helping to meet your safety and educational needs is the number one priority here at FISTA.  For more information, contact Ben at 800-551-2656 or

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