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OSHA Fall Protection Training – Keeping it Interesting and Memorable

OSHA Fall Protection Training – Keeping it Interesting and Memorable

Regulations about falls by employees working at heights can be dull stuff when employers are trying train employees. But nothing could be more important. Employers need to keep the training interesting, keep employees engaged and, in so doing, keep them safe.

When conducting training, employers need to boil down the main messages from the mass of regulatory words. Here are a few snippets of some OSHA requirements employees should know:

• 1910.23(b)(1): Every wall opening from which there is a drop of more than 4 feet shall be guarded….

• 1926.501(b)(1): “Unprotected sides and edges.” Each employee on a walking/working surface (horizontal and vertical surface) with an unprotected side or edge which is 6 feet or more above a lower level shall be protected from falling….

• 1926.451(g)(1): Each employee on a scaffold more than 10 feet above a lower level shall be protected from falling to that lower level.

• 1926.760(a)(1): [Steel Erection] … each employee engaged in a steel erection activity who is on a walking/working surface with an unprotected side or edge more than 15 feet above a lower level shall be protected from fall hazards by guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, positioning device systems or fall restraint systems.

• 1926.1423(f): [Cranes] For assembly/dis-assembly work, the employer must provide and ensure the use of fall protection equipment for employees who are on a walking/working surface with an unprotected side or edge more than 15 feet above a lower level….

Know your ABCD’s

How do employees remember all of the components they need for a correct fall protection system? Try the ABCD method, says Capital Safety, a manufacturer of fall protection, confined space and rescue equipment.
•    A:  Anchorage — each anchor point needs to support 5,000 pounds per person
•    B:  Body support — full-body harness that is correctly sized to the employee
•    C:  Connector — shock-absorbing lanyard or self-retracting lifeline
•    D:  Descent/rescue — in the event of an incident, how does your employee get to safety?

It takes some calculation

However, it’s true that not everything is as easy as ABCD. Take this question: With a typical s-foot lanyard and a harness, what’s the minimum height where this kind of equipment will work and protect your employee?

Miller Fall Protection Company says the following items need to be taken into account for calculating the minimum fall distance:
•    Length of anchorage connector
•    Length of connecting device (lanyard, typically 6 feet)
•    Maximum elongation/deceleration distance
•    Harness stretch/sliding back D-ring movement
•    Height measured to worker’s harness back D-ring
•    Safety factor

(Miller Fall Protection’s calculation:

This answer is 18.5 feet. If employees are working at less than that distance, equipment changes are needed. A four-foot lanyard or a self-retracting lanyard are other options.

But how does someone demonstrate this to employees? Miller offers a SPLAT indicator, or, you can make one of your own. Use a small weight and 18.5 feet of string. Fasten the end of the string to the anchor point and drop the weight. If it hits the ground, splat! The anchor point is too low for a standard set-up. Something needs to change. Raise your anchor point or shorten your lanyard.

Real men and women can learn from dolls.

How does one show what a swing fall is? How can you show what a splat looks like?

Think out of the box. Play with dolls. Tie some rope to simulate the harness and lanyard. Use a toy key-ring carabiner to simulate the anchoring snap-hook. Put a tack in the wall, move the doll more than 30 degrees to the side, and let go. Put a hand under the tack and show that the employee could hit the wall (your hand) if he or she had a swing fall.


Regardless of what techniques are used in training sessions, one thing that needs to be emphasized is proper inspection of fall protection equipment. The equipment manufacturer should be able to provide inspection requirements. Be sure to document the inspection by marking the tags attached to the equipment and/or filling out an inspection report form. This inspection needs to be performed by a competent person at least annually. If the equipment was used in an actual fall event, it should be put away until it can be determined if it’s safe to use again.

OSHA’s Fall Protection website: