Fall Protection Training
Written by Michael Purser
OSHA's fall protection standard requires employers to provide fall protection training to employees before they are exposed to fall hazards. Fall hazards are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. According to OSHA, 351 of the 1,008 construction fatalities in 2020 were caused by a fall to a lower level.
Completing a fall protection class gives you the tools to protect yourself on the job. Learn how to identify safety hazards and master lifesaving equipment that will help you prevent serious injury or death from a workplace fall. This article will help you learn everything you need to know about fall protection and relevant OSHA requirements.
The Difference Between Fall Protection and Fall Prevention
While the average person often uses fall prevention and fall protection interchangeably, they are actually two different approaches to safety.
Fall prevention proactively identifies and eliminates fall hazards in the workplace. The focus of fall prevention is to limit access to hazards or remove them entirely. By taking a fall prevention training course, workers can learn OSHA regulations governing fall hazards, including how to analyze fall hazards, evaluate fall risks and prevent dangerous situations in the first place.
Fall protection is about safeguarding workers who are exposed to fall hazards. That includes understanding the injuries caused by fall hazards, installing safety equipment on high surfaces and using protective equipment when working at heights.
Taking fall protection training courses prepares you to work safely at heights. Supervisors and workers with safety responsibilities can take an OSHA Competent Person Fall Protection course to learn how to protect others and evaluate safety compliance in the workplace.
We offer online training courses in both fall prevention and fall protection. In this article, however, we primarily discuss fall protection.
When Fall Protection Is Required
Under Subpart M, specifically 1926.501(b), OSHA requires fall protection for workers on any surface with an unprotected edge that is six or more feet above a lower level. That standard applies specifically to workers in the construction industry. OSHA regulations for general industry and maritime workers require fall protection above four feet and five feet, respectively.
There are a few exceptions. Specific surfaces or situations have their own requirements. For instance, under 1926.451(g)(1), workers on scaffolding only need fall protection if they are 10 feet or more above a lower level. But, in most cases, construction workers at least six feet above a lower level should be trained in the use of fall protection systems.
Types of Fall Protection
There are hundreds of pieces of safety equipment designed to protect workers from fall hazards. But fall protection courses focus on the “big three” categories: guardrail systems, safety net systems and personal fall arrest systems. Definitions of and OSHA requirements for these systems can be found in 1926.502 of Subpart M, but we will summarize them here.
A guardrail is a system of bars, screens, meshes and other barriers designed to protect workers from falling to a lower level. They simply block the way and keep people from tipping over an unprotected edge, falling down a hole or plummeting from a window or other wall opening.
Safety Net Systems
Safety nets on jobsites can safely catch workers who fall over an unprotected edge. Nets must be able to absorb significant amounts of force without either breaking or harming a fall victim, as determined by a drop test. The size of the net depends on the distance from the edge of the work surface to the level below. The further the potential fall, the bigger the safety net.
Personal Fall Arrest Systems (PFAS)
PFAS is one of the most diverse categories of fall protection devices. A fall arrest system might involve any number of variations, but are all composed of three main parts:
- A secure anchor point
- A tether or connector of some kind
- A partial or full-body harness worn by the worker
Whether the system uses a self-retracting lanyard or a manual tether, snaphooks or D-rings, a PFAS limits the distance a worker can fall by tying them to a lifeline that prevents a painful impact with a lower surface. Fall arrest systems can be paired with guardrails and safety nets to provide multiple layers of fall protection.
While those are the largest categories of fall protection equipment, there are many more ways to protect construction workers from harmful falls. Stairways, ladders, aerial lifts, cages and other systems are just as important and are also covered in our online fall protection and prevention training courses.
OSHA Fall Protection Training
Having access to the proper safety equipment and fall arrest systems isn’t enough. You need OSHA-compliant training in fall protection. If you work in a facility or jobsite with fall hazards, you must take an approved fall protection course and obtain a certificate demonstrating your training. Your employer will keep your fall protection certificate on record for safety and regulatory compliance purposes.
Online Fall Protection Safety Training
You don’t have to attend an on-site safety training. You can enroll in fall protection online training instead. We offer a 100% online certificate course you can complete from any internet-connected device.
This course teaches you all the essentials of fall protection, including all the subjects required under OSHA 1926.503. This one-hour training course covers vital fall protection topics, including:
- OSHA requirements for when and how to use fall protection
- Fall protection with unprotected, leading sides and edges
- Avoiding falling objects and struck-by hazards
- Using guardrail, personal fall arrest, warning line and safety monitoring systems
- Training requirements
- Safety equipment inspection procedures
Choosing an online course lets you train at your pace. We offer 24/7 course access. Stop and start as often as you want without losing your place.
Fall Protection Competent Person Training
OSHA may require your worksite to designate a fall protection competent person. A competent person is an employer-designated individual who has the knowledge and authority to identify, control and eliminate fall hazards in the workplace.
In this role, you will work with management and on-site supervisors to recognize and remove fall hazards on your jobsite. A competent person builds safety plans, rectifies dangerous conditions, communicates with coworkers and leads by example to create a safer work environment for everyone.
We also offer a Competent Person: Fall Protection online training course. This course satisfies the training standards in 29 CFR 1926.32(f) and qualifies you to serve as the competent person in your workplace. It is the perfect way to prepare to become an OSHA-compliant competent person in fall protection.
- Personal Fall Protection Systems standard | OSHA
- Falls in the Workplace | CDC
- Fall Prevention Campaign | OSHA
- Fall Protection | OSHA
- Fall Protection in Construction | OSHA
Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.). OSHA’s Fall Prevention Campaign. Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/stop-falls
Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.). Fall Protection. Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/fall-protection
Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.). 1926.501 – Duty to have fall protection. Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1926/1926.501
Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.). 1926.502 – Fall protection systems criteria and practices. Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1926/1926.502
Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.). 1926.503 – Training requirements. Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1926/1926.503
Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.). 1926.451 – General requirements. Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1926/1926.451
Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.). 1926.32 – Definitions. Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1926/1926.32