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Fall Protection Training

OSHAcademy founder, Steve Geigle, on top of a Vestas wind turbine in Manitoba, Canada.

Why Fall Protection Training

Workers need to know about workplace hazards to which they may be exposed, how to recognize the hazards, and how to minimize their exposure. The best way for them to learn is through training. Training ensures that they know about the hazards and can demonstrate how to protect themselves from falling.

Employers: Your Responsibility

Workers who could be exposed to fall hazards must be trained to recognize the hazards and to know the procedures that minimize the hazards. All employees must prove they understand and can properly use, care for, and detect defects in fall protection equipment. The only way to do that is to demonstrate adequate knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to a competent person.

If you're an employer, you're responsible for ensuring that your employees can recognize fall hazards and they know how to protect themselves before they're exposed to the hazards. When the hazards to which employees are exposed change, you can't assume they know how to protect themselves from falls. If they're starting work on a new site, for example, they might not recognize fall hazards or know how to protect themselves unless you train them.

A Word About Qualifications

Don't assume an OSHA 10- or 30-Hour training card somehow magically qualifies an employee to do anything, especially to work at elevation or train fall protection: OSHA will tell you it doesn't. Make sure you require each new employee to prove they can use fall protection correctly by demonstrating adequate knowledge and skills before allowing them to work above heights requiring fall protection.

1. What must the employer do before allowing a new employee to use fall protection equipment on the job?

a. Require the employee to provide an OSHA 10-hour card
b. Have the employee prove adequate knowledge and skills
c. Ask for a course completion certificate
d. Make sure the employee has previous experience

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Training Must Be How-To and Hands-On

Training is an important component of the fall protection program.

Employers may assume that they can complete fall protection training simply by providing a classroom lecture, showing a video, or having employees complete an online course. However, lectures, videos, or online training do not completely satisfy OSHA requirements for employers to prove their employees have adequate knowledge, skills, and abilities (SKAs) to use fall protection equipment. Although employers may satisfy the how-to instructional component, they cannot prove adequate knowledge and skills unless they provide employees an opportunity to practice hands-on to develop the necessary skills and abilities.

Blended Learning

Blended learning is an effective educational strategy for conducting fall protection training that helps employers meet OSHA requirements and ensures employees gain adequate knowledge, skills, and abilities. We call it "blended learning" because it blends multiple educational strategies to provide both the how-to and hands-on components through instruction, practice, and performance evaluation.

For instance, using the blended learning strategy, you might follow these steps:

Blended learning is "how to" and "hands-on" education.
  1. Employees complete an online course or video presentation on general fall protection principles and equipment before participating in classroom instruction;
  2. The trainer follows up with more complete instruction on the specific equipment that will be used after training.
  3. Employees complete written exams to verify they have gained adequate knowledge.
  4. Employees next practice using the equipment in a safe training environment.
  5. After practice, the trainer requires employees to demonstrate how to use the equipment in the training environment.
  6. The trainer evaluates employee skills during the demonstrations and, if appropriate, certifies employees as initially qualified.
  7. When employees return to work, a supervisor or competent person evaluates the ability of employees to use equipment safely while performing tasks and certifies them as fully qualified.

2. OSHA considers an employee as fully qualified in the use of fall protection equipment _____.

a. when a trainer certifies the employee demonstrates adequate KSAs during practice
b. when practice indicates the employee has adequate KSAs
c. when KSAs are verified by scoring at least 70% on the course written exam
d. when a competent person certifies adequate KSAs on the job

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Trainer Criteria

The trainer must be a competent person.

It's important that the trainer knows the hazards at the work site, knows how to eliminate or control the hazards, and knows how to teach workers to protect themselves. That's why the trainer must be a competent person. Remember: A competent person is one who can identify work site hazards and who has management authority to control them.

The fall protection trainer must know and be able to explain the following:

  • the nature of fall hazards at the work site
  • procedures for erecting, maintaining, and disassembling fall protection systems
  • how to use and operate fall-protection systems
  • role of each employee who may be affected by a safety-monitoring system
  • restrictions that apply to mechanical equipment used during roofing work
  • procedures for handling and storing materials and for erecting protection from falling objects
  • requirements detailed in OSHA standards
  • company policies and procedures

3. The fall protection trainer, as a competent person, should be able to explain each of the following EXCEPT _____.

a. how to use fall-protection systems
b. company policies and procedures
c. how to repair harnesses on the job
d. the nature of fall hazards on site

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fall rescue
Do not assume employees know how to use fall protection.

When to Train

Employees must be trained before they begin tasks that could expose them to fall hazards or before they use fall-protection systems. They must be retrained when:

  • you have reason to believe they don't recognize fall hazards,
  • when they do not appear to know how to correctly use fall protection,
  • when they don't follow safe practices for using fall-protection systems, and
  • when changes in the workplace or in the fall-protection systems used make their previous training obsolete.

What to Put in Writing

The employer must keep a written record (certification) of each employee's fall-protection training. As a minimum, you need to include the employee's name, the training date, and the trainer's signature.

Since this training involves procedures and practices used to prevent serious injury or death, we recommend you "certify" the employee as qualified to use the fall protection equipment and they know procedures.

Remember, to be certified as qualified, the employee must prove to the trainer or competent person they have adequate knowledge and skills to perform the procedure or practice.

A formal certification record should be developed to document any training that requires employees to know and use procedures and practices for dangerous tasks.

See sample certification record.

4. When should an employee be trained on how they may be exposed to fall hazards?

a. The day after being hired
b. Within one week after being hired
c. Before being exposed to fall hazards
d. After any fall accident occurs

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Model Training Strategy

The "show and tell" model for on-the-job training (OJT) has been, and is still, the best method for training specific fall-protection safety procedures. Measurement of knowledge, skills, and abilities occurs throughout the OJT process while keeping the employee safe from injury while learning.

  1. Introduction. The instructor tells the trainee about the fall protection training emphasizing why it's importance of properly use it whenever required. The instructor also asks questions and reviews company policies regarding employee accountability.
  2. Instructor informs. Next, the instructor explains important fall protection topics and demonstrates how to properly use, maintain, and store fall protection. The instructor also stresses the natural consequences (the injury/illness) and system consequences (reward/discipline) related to performance. The trainee becomes familiar with using fall protection equipment and why it is important to use safe procedures.
  3. Instructor shows. Think of this step as a test. In this step, roles are reversed: the trainee attempts to teach the instructor how to use the equipment. The instructor follows the trainee's instructions and asks "why" certain points are important. It's important to include this step especially if injury is possible. There is an opportunity for the instructor to discover if there were any misunderstandings while protecting the trainee from possible injury.
  4. Trainee shows. Now it's the trainee's turn to perform. The trainee describes each step before performing it. If a step might expose the trainee to a serious hazard, the instructor may require employees to get permission prior to performing a hazardous step.
  5. Evaluation. After the trainee successfully completes the procedure, the instructor evaluates employee performance in the training environment. After training, a supervisor or competent person will evaluate employee performance in the work environment.
  6. Documentation. The trainer documents initial qualification and a supervisor or competent person documents full qualification. Use the sample certification to document the training. OSHA will love it!

5. According to the text, what is the best method for training specific on-the-job fall protection safety procedures?

a. Group exercise
b. Guided discussion
c. Show and tell
d. Lecture

Check your Work

Read the material in each section to find the correct answer to each quiz question. After answering all the questions, click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button to grade your quiz and see your score. You will receive a message if you forgot to answer one of the questions. After clicking the button, the questions you missed will be listed below. You can correct any missed questions and check your answers again.

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Real-World Falls


Pipefitter Falls from Ladder

A pipefitter was going to get a measurement at the top of a 25-foot fiberglass tank. With the help of a co-worker, he placed a ladder against the tank and tied off the bottom to pipes at the base of the tank. He climbed the ladder, stood on the top rungs, and took the measurement. While he was descending, the ladder slipped against the slick fiberglass surface and twisted. The pipefitter lost his balance and fell 18 feet to the concrete floor. He died of massive head injuries.

Findings: The pipefitter had been on the job only four days and had no training in using ladders safely. Also, the ladder was defective and had not been tagged or removed from service; the side rails were twisted and dented, the rungs damaged, and the halyard was missing.



This California Public Health video explains the events that led to a solar installer dying after he fell from an apartment building roof. Photographs from the fatality investigation are supplemented with scenes re-created by solar workers. Fall prevention recommendations are highlighted. Solar installation and construction companies are encouraged to include this video as part of a comprehensive safety training program (English, 4.5 minutes).

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