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Fall Protection Training

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

Why Workers Should Be Trained on Fall Protection

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.

Some employers assume that they can train their employees simply by showing them a fall-protection training video or online course (like this one!). But videos, lectures, online courses, etc., are not adequate because they do not provide the "hands-on" component of the training. Unfortunately, these training methods only provide instruction.

Check out this short audio clip by Dan Clark of the Falling safely at work. Practice it. Yes, practice breaking your fall on the job. You can reduce injuries when you really have slips, trips or falls.

Employers: Your Responsibility

Training is an important component of the fall protection program.

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. 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.

Training Must Be Hands-On

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. The only way to do that is to demonstrate adequate knowledge and skills to a competent person.

Trainer Criteria

Employees must be trained before they begin tasks that could expose them to fall hazards. The trainer must be a competent person.

It's important 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 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

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 knowledge and skills before allowing them to work above heights requiring fall protection.

fall rescue
You can’t assume employees know how to protect themselves from falls. This one put his personal fall-arrest gear on upside down.

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 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.

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 knowledge and skills occurs throughout the OJT process while keeping the employee safe from injury while learning. If, in using this training method, the employee is not exposed to hazards that could cause serious injury, you may be able to delete step 3. Otherwise, don't skip a step.

Step 1: Introduction-The instructor tells the trainee about the training. At this time, the instructor emphasizes the importance of the procedure to the success of the production/service goals, invites questions, and emphasizes accountability.

Step 2: Instructor show and tell- The instructor demonstrates the process. The instructor first explains and demonstrates safe work procedures associated with the task. In this step, the trainee becomes familiar with each work practice and why it is important.

  • Trainer: Demonstrates and Explains
  • Trainee: Observes and Questions

Model Training Strategy (continued)

Step 3: Instructor show and ask-The trainee tells the instructor how to do the procedure, while the instructor does it. This step is actually optional. It's important to include this step if injury is possible. There is an opportunity for the instructor to discover whether there were any misunderstandings, but protects the trainee because the instructor still performs the procedure.

  • Trainer: Demonstrates and Questions
  • Trainee: Explains and Observes

Step 4: Trainee tell and show- Now it's the trainee's turn. To further protect the employee, the instructor must give permission for the trainee to perform each step. The trainee carries out the procedure, but remains protected because the he or she explains the process before actually performing the procedure.

  • Trainer: Gives permission, Observes and Questions
  • Trainee: Gets permission, Explains and then Demonstrates

Step 5. Conclusion. The instructor recognizes accomplishment, reemphasizes the importance of the procedure, and how it fits into the overall process. The instructor also reviews the natural consequences (the injury/illness) and system consequences (reward/discipline) related to performance.

Step 6. Document. The trainee certifies (1) training accomplished, (2) questions were answered, (3) opportunities provided to do procedure, (4) accountabilities understood, and (5) intent to comply. The instructor certifies that the trainee has (6) demonstrated adequate knowledge and skill to complete the procedure.

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).


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Why does OSHA consider relying solely on videos, online courses, and classroom lectures inadequate for fall protection training?

2. According to OSHA, which of the following is false regarding fall protection training?

3. What is the response if the employer believes an employee who has been trained doesn't recognize fall hazards?

4. Documentation of fall protection training must include which of the following at a minimum?

5. What is the best method for training specific fall-protection safety procedures?

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.