Many fall protection training programs offered today are highly focused on regulatory requirements or exclusively on equipment. But, the most effective training covers these topics and much more. This paper will compare OSHA regulations and ANSI standards, including the new ANSI Z359.2 standard as it pertains to fall protection training. Using lessons learned from an aircraft engine manufacturing site, this paper provides an understanding of the content of training needed to maintain safety and foster continuous improvement for your fall hazard program.
What can happen when there is inadequate fall protection training? A pipe fitter, who was involved with the construction of an electric power plant building, observed a fall fatality. The workers at the time just had a skeleton and framework for a large unit that houses coils, but were tied off with a twin leg lanyard. While the pipe fitter was 20 feet away, one worker unhooked from one anchor to connect to another anchor and lost his footing and fell 60 feet and died. If he had been continuously connected, a fall would likely have been prevented. Training on this work was very limited. The basic statement was that fall protection should be used where there was a hazard more than 6' above a lower surface. It is unknown if the training was reassessed after this accident. In this example, the misuse of the fall protection equipment could have been prevented with proper training.
One company that has implemented an effective training program is an aircraft engine manufacturing facility. This facility employs approximately 7,500 people and sits on a 400-acre site with approximately 100-acres under roof. They decided to focus on improving their fall protection program in fall 2005. A skilled trades employee serves as the facilitator for the program. Their initial objective was to raise the awareness level and knowledge of fall hazards for the facility. When choosing to focus on this program, they created a fall hazard prevention committee in November 2005 which led the training efforts, hazard identification surveys, roof access procedure implementation, ladder survey and various abatements. Their first training was conducted in February 2006 with 30 people completing an OSHA 40 hour competent person course and a second training was conducted in May 2007. A total of 45 employees have been trained to competent person level with a competent person available to employees on each shift.
In the construction industry, the number of fall fatalities continues to rise relative to 1995. In 1994, OSHA Subpart M, THE fall protection regulation, was issued but falls are still rising as seen in Exhibit 1 and 2, quoted from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. Falls impact the quality of life for the worker and the bottom line for the company. Common fatal misconceptions about fall protection are that with these precautions in place, it is harder to work, it slows down work activity, it's too difficult to implement and that a company really doesn't need it.