How to Do Fall Protection Training Right
Whether you hire an in-house trainer or outsource it to a third party, your fall protection training should cover the site-specific hazards found in your workplace.
For anyone working at heights, gravity is the enemy. All it takes is one little bump, losing your balance for just a moment, or a slight trip to send a worker on a dangerous fall.
That's why the risk of falling needs to be constantly controlled and mitigated. This is achieved in large part through fall protection equipment and fall arrest devices, but no equipment is going to keep a worker safe unless they're also aware, informed, and prepared. Training, then, is an essential component of any fall safety program.
OSHA 29 CFR 1910.30(a)(1) requires employers to provide training to any employee who might be exposed to a fall hazard.
But this is where it gets a little complicated. Section (a)(2) of the standard requires the training to be done by a qualified person but doesn't define what "qualified" means in this context. There is also little indication of how to approach training or what makes a good training program.
In this article, I'll go over the important details that are left out of generic safety standards governing fall protection training. By the end, you should have a good idea of what it takes to provide good fall safety training for your workers.
Who Should Train the Workers?
Providing workers with good training starts with finding someone qualified to deliver it. Employers can either hire an in-house trainer or outsource training duties to a third party.
All trainers will follow the training standards of the organization that certified them, but an in-house trainer will also tailor their training program to your company. They'll be able to use company-specific examples and create very relevant hands-on training scenarios.
Having your workers train with company tools and in their own work environment also ensures that what they learn from the training session translates perfectly to their working reality.
Third Party Trainer
Most companies, however, cannot afford to maintain an in-house trainer, and others simply prefer the convenience of working with a third party.
There's nothing wrong with this; however, I do recommend supplementing the generic training with some company-specific exercises and materials created under the direction of a competent person.
The competent person you select for this task should have some experience with your workplace. I say this because in-class training often focuses on legislation and generic set-up, but your workplace and its demands might be very different. For instance, most fall protection training stresses the importance of placing the anchor above the dorsal D-Ring, but this is not feasible at all times for workers doing roofing or working beside an excavation or shaft.
The Qualities of a Good Trainer
The person you select to deliver fall protection training to your employees should have experience working at height. It's likely that their experience will not be an exact match for the work that is carried out on your workplace. They might, for instance, have a residential construction background while your company deals in commercial building projects. But their experience should have given them a first-hand understanding of fall protection systems and a knowledge of what it's like to be doing difficult work at a dangerous elevation.
First-hand experience is not enough, of course. Your trainer or facilitator should have the ability to convey their message clearly and in a way that keeps their audience captivated. They should also be comfortable using a number of different instruction methods, including visual and auditory material, as well as leading hands-on exercises. Multiple modes of delivery ensure that the participants will remain attentive and will better absorb the message.
Your trainer or facilitator also needs to be good at demonstrating the proper use of fall protection equipment. To do this, they'll require the technical expertise needed to select appropriate fall protection materials and to set up relevant scenarios.
Fall Protection Training Done Right
There is no firm consensus on how to train fall protection, but most companies seem to prefer class-based training.
Successful in-class training delivery focuses on three domains of learning; cognitive, psychomotor, and affective.
Cognitive Learning (Instruction)
The cognitive domain refers to what the employee will know after completing the training.
For fall protection, this should include:
- Hazard identification
- Regulatory bodies
- Fall protection systems and planning
- Fall restraint systems
- Anchor points
- Body harnesses
- Shock absorbers
- Fallen worker rescue (including self-rescue)
- Selection, care, and proper use of fall protection equipment
The cognitive component of the training is usually delivered through a slide presentation, using a mix of photos and videos enhanced by the trainer's commentary.
The trainer should present pertinent legislation, different types of equipment and their applicability, and the dos and don'ts of fall protection.
To be effective, these sessions should be interactive and involve a two-way dialogue between the trainer and the trainees. Too often, trainers focus so much of their time and energy on covering legislation that they leave too little room for proper hands-on exercises.
Psychomotor Learning (Demonstration)
The psychomotor domain refers to the mastery of the physical skills a trainee will be expected to have after their training in complete. At a minimum, this should include:
- Inspecting the equipment
- Putting on and adjusting the harness
- Selecting compatible fall protection elements
- Choosing an appropriate anchor point
- Installing the fall protection system (including anchors)
- Safely uninstalling the system
- Using rescue equipment (such as relief straps and ascending/descending ropes)
To impart these skills, trainers should first explain the equipment and all of its components. Then, they should demonstrate the proper use of the gear. They might, for example, assemble a fall protection system or show how to use relief straps and rescue devices. The employees should then have the opportunity to manipulate, make use of, and become familiar with the fall protection gear that will soon be keeping them safe.
Later, the trainees should be asked to analyze scenarios, either depicted in a video or simulated at the training facility. They are expected to draw on what they learned from the demonstrations. The trainees should be able to pick out the best system for a given scenario and explain their choice.
Finally, when the trainer is satisfied that the trainees have achieved an adequate level of understanding, they should put their skills to the test in a controlled environment. Trainees should don and set up the equipment themselves and once they have done so correctly, they should test their fall protection systems. This will show them what it's like to be stopped at a leading edge or what it feels like to hang suspended from a body harness.
Affective Learning (Understanding)
Affecting learning concerns the values, attitudes, and beliefs that workers are expected to demonstrate after the completion of training.
A good trainer will be able to help the trainee better understand the fall hazards and the benefits that come with properly applying what they have learned. The trainer should convey the dramatic and dangerous consequences of not wearing or improperly installing fall protection equipment.
The end result of the affective component of the training should be a team of employees who are not only aware of the risks that come with working at height, but who also actively reinforce, promote, and defend safe behavior and work processes.
This is, admittedly, difficult to measure. But a high level of participation and engagement is a good indication that it is working.
So, now you've delivered the training and your team is ready to work safely at height. Are you really done?
If you used a third party facilitator to train your workers, you should have someone who is familiar with your worksite provide site-specific supplementary training.
You will also need to provide your workers with regular refresher training to ensure their continued safety. While most legislation states that workers should be retrained when they are no longer proficient, there is no specified interval for refresher training.
Every company should establish their own timeline for refresher training, although it is usually provided every one or three years. Some events should also trigger a need for retraining. For instance, changes in the fall protection equipment workers will be using, an incident like a fall from height (whether fatal, injurious, or resulting in a successful rescue), or a near miss.
In Canadian workplaces, fall protection trainers typically issue training tickets with an expiration date three years after the training has been completed. Employers are encouraged to retrain employees after these tickets have expired, though provincial codes do not specifically require it.
Doing Fall Protection Training Right
Your fall protection equipment can only keep workers safe if they know how to use it and work safely with it. Whether you hire an in-house trainer or outsource training to a third party, doing fall protection training right is essential.
More from AD Safety Network
- When should you consider using custom molded earplugs?
- At what height do falls become deadly?
- Who should be responsible for rescuing fallen workers?
- What kind of training do loading dock workers need?
- How often should I inspect a loading dock?
- How is wind chill calculated?
- What is the difference between occupational safety and process safety?
- Why should rubber insulating gloves be tested?
- What happens if I tie off at the foot level with a personal SRL?
- Why is testing with a NAIL4PET accredited lab important?
- What kind of face protection do I need when using a chainsaw?
- What is the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for silica?
- What is silica and why is it hazardous?
- Video Q&A - What is a safety policy?
- What kind of fire extinguisher is best for your work site?
- How do I choose the right respirator and mask for working with silica?
- Can I wear fall protection equipment over my rainwear or winter gear?
- When do I need a cage ladder?
- What types of gloves protect your hands from hazardous chemicals?
- How come I still got hurt while wearing flame-resistant clothing?
- How do I win over my most reluctant employees?
- What kinds of jobs should use disposable safety gloves?
- Is it true that safety shouldn't be a top priority?
- When are employers allowed to conduct drug and alcohol tests on their employees?
- How can I get employees more involved in the risk assessment plan?
- What are some of the indirect costs of workplace accidents?
- How often do fire extinguishers need to be inspected?
- What is the best way to store rubber safety gloves?
- How much voltage protection is needed for safety gloves used in electrical work?
- What is the difference between a safety valve and a release valve?
- When do workers have the right to refuse to work?
- What is the most overlooked item when designing Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) procedures?
- What are some of the misconceptions about heat stress and what should we do to address them?
- What tools should I tether when working at heights?
- What types of gas should I watch out for when working in a confined space?
- How do you create a culture of safety in your workplace?
- What is the difference between industrial safety and industrial hygiene?
- Is it important to get PPE assessments by trained professionals?
- What is a fault tree analysis?
- What kind of respirator cartridge should I use?
- What are the safety benefits of a whistleblower program?
- What type of safety record-keeping and recording should we be doing?
- What makes a hi-vis safety vest ANSI compliant?
- Why is it important to have air sampling done to determine my PELs?
- What is the life expectancy of fall protection equipment?
- What are some basic fall protection rules that each of my workers need to understand?
- How much clearance do I need to safely use a Leading Edge SRL?
- What is the difference between an acute hazard and a chronic hazard?
- What’s the difference between a bump test, a calibration check, and a full calibration?
- Is there any legislation regulating lone worker safety I should know about before hiring?
- What kind of fire extinguisher and accessories should be kept on hand on a factory floor?
- What can companies do to reduce their lost time injury frequency rates?
- Video Q&A - What's your safety network like?
- Video Q&A - What are the 3 levels of safety?
- Video Q&A - How do you treat a near miss?
- Does body weight affect falls differently?
- What ages are most affected by falls?
- Why do workers take risks?
- What Is the Difference Between OHSAS 18001 and 18002?
- What is the difference between lost time injury and medical treatment case?
- What is the difference between occupational health and safety and workplace health and safety?
- What is the difference between occupational health and occupational safety?
- What is the difference between a lost time injury and a disabling injury?