Fall Protection Training: The Classroom and Beyond

Most college graduates spend several years learning their expertise so that they can use those skills when they eventually join the workforce. But, many college graduates find that a four-year education is just the beginning—in fact, the real training begins on the job. What does that have to do with fall protection you ask? Well, according to an article published in Occupational Health & Safety Magazine: “Whatever training you attend and complete should be viewed as the launching point to get you started on learning everything you can about fall protection.” This is a very important point to emphasize.

Over the years, the fall protection industry has strived to counter the effects of gravity and keep employees safe in the workforce. Even so, OSHA recognizes that protecting workers at height is an ongoing process—and one that we still have much to learn about. That’s why it’s crucial that the fall protection industry, with the help of employers, continue its training efforts on and off the job.

Similar to that college or high school degree, off-the-job training is crucial and often the first step to a comprehensive fall protection training program. Training courses provide important details about compliance requirements, fall protection system capabilities and limitations, clearance requirements and swing fall, post-fall rescue, fall protection system maintenance, and so much more.

There are hundreds of fall protection courses and training programs that are—without a doubt—crucial to a comprehensive fall protection program. In fact, these courses are carefully designed to provide a baseline of knowledge for workers performing jobs at height, and these courses most definitely enhance workers’ ability to perform their roles safely and effectively. But, it’s impossible for a single, or even multiple, fall protection courses to cover each specific aspect of knowledge necessary for every at height situation.

According to Occupational Health & Safety and OSHA, “Fall protection training is the beginning and should not and cannot be thought of as the end all for whatever role and responsibility for which you are training.” In other words, training courses are essential, but they are just the beginning of a full, comprehensive, and on-going fall protection program.

OSHA recommends ongoing training because fall protection systems and regulations are always changing and improving. But, even ongoing training in the classroom is simply not enough. The next—and perhaps most crucial—step to a comprehensive and ongoing fall protection training regimen is actually getting out there and visiting your facility on a regular basis to understand very important aspects of fall protection on the job, including the structural geometry of the facility, potential fall hazards, and employees’ needs and concerns.

For most specialist, it’s simply not possible to learn every single OSHA requirement regarding fall protection. In fact, fall protection competent person courses do not—and cannot—cover everything you need to know about reducing hazards and keeping employees safe at height. And, even if they did cover everything, on-the-job training is arguably just as important, if not more important, than classroom training. One major obstacle, aside from differentiated learning from one worker to the next, is that it’s nearly impossible to know the particular obstacles and challenges of every location where workers perform at height. Understanding these specific obstacles can only be obtained through experience and on-the-job training. Getting out into the work environment is a major part of ongoing self-education.

Formal fall protection courses in a classroom setting are undeniably important—particularly for ongoing education in fall protection, which is always evolving. But, it cannot be the stopping-point for a successful and safe work environment. Fall protection training must go beyond the formal classroom setting to observe workers in their element, assess specific needs and hazards for workers at height, and understand the needs of your specific facility. Ongoing “training” through self-study, on-the-job experience, visiting and understanding new and emerging fall protection technologies, and assessing workers’ needs in their daily environment is all part of your comprehensive and on-going fall protection education, and will undeniably reduce workplace hazards and keep workers safer at height.

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Kristina Harman

Senior Technical Writer | Rigidlifelines.com
Kristina Harman was formerly a senior technical writer and content manager for Rigid Lifelines, a division of Spanco, Inc. Kristina has twelve years of experience in content development, technical communications, and copyediting. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in English from Towson University and a Master of Education Certification in English from Johns Hopkins University. She is a member of the Society for Technical Communication and the American Medical Writers Association.