The Benefits of Team Fall Protection Training

Tackling the number one killer on construction sites as a team can increase safety for everyone.

In 2015, of 937 construction jobsite fatalities, 350 were due to falls, making them the leading cause of construction worker deaths, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This is why fall protection training is so important.

"People don't believe a lot of times a fall will hurt them," said Peter Chocholik, fall protection instructor at United Academy, United Rentals’ safety training school. "They think they can dust themselves off and walk way, but people do tend to get hurt." Or worse.

OSHA offers free handouts, sample toolbox talks and other fall prevention information for employers and workers. But structured training, be it online, in a live classroom setting or a combination of both, provides benefits you can’t get from a handout.

Online courses, like the ones offered by several OSHA Training Institute Education Centers, provide a 24/7 opportunity for participation, the ability to ask questions of an instructor via email and unlimited access to the course, typically for months.

On the other end of the spectrum is live training — face-to-face instruction in a group setting — like the classes offered by United Academy, either on the jobsite or at one of its learning facilities. These courses allow team members from the same company to participate in training sessions together, which presents advantages.  

"When you have numerous people from the same company in the same class," said Bob Habetler, corporate master safety trainer at United Rentals, "they sit together and discuss as a group how their company policies and procedures work versus what they've being training on." Sometimes they even come away with knowledge they can use to make recommendations for their company's fall protection program, he said.

Chocholik added that trainers teaching a live class can tailor the instruction to some degree for the participants’ trade. "For example, if drywallers are all using the same PPE, we can focus in on the equipment they would be using."

Live training as a team may encourage students to more fully engage in the class because there's not that awkwardness of speaking up in front of strangers, noted Lee Braden, safety training manager at United Rentals and United Academy.

“If you have 10 folks needing to be trained, and you get those 10 people together, there's that camaraderie. They're not as bashful in those environments because there's usually more interaction and dialogue a lot of the time." Once training is complete, he said, the employees who went through the course can review what they learned together and clarify points for each other.

Said Habetler, "[Training together] gives them strength in numbers. It makes them more credible and prepared when they get back to work on their own company's fall protection plan."

Then there's the blended approach, part online course and part live class. During the online portion of United Academy’s blended program, students go through knowledge checks and quizzes to make sure they're picking up the material, and then they can bring any questions they have to the live evaluation session.

The blended course is attractive to many students, Habetler noted, especially to younger workers. "If they get the choice of sitting in a classroom or taking an online, blended program, which do you think they're going to take?"