As most of you know, OSHA launched their Fall Prevention Campaign earlier this year. According to OSHA, falls are the number one cause of fatalities in the construction industry. With 264 fatalities resulting from falls, out of a total of 774 fatalities, falls constitute one third of all fatal injuries in the industry. The campaign is focused around 3 simple but critical steps:
• Plan (ahead to get the job done safely)
• Provide (proper equipment)
• Train (everyone to use the equipment correctly)
This is a great message to organizations, particularly in the construction industry, that provides them with a very concrete process for reducing exposure to falls. Each step, or recommendation, is broad and covers a lot of potential ground. Below are three principles to consider as you implement each step within your organization.
1. Great planning lies in the details … As we know planning is essential to success in anything that we do, and ensuring the safety of our team members in the workplace is no exception. But in order to plan for the job correctly based on the job, we have to make sure we know what the job really entails. It is essential that we inspect the job site closely, consider all the potential hazards, and pay attention to important details. For example, if ladders or scaffolding will be used, are there enough based on the projected work? What type of fall prevention equipment will be used? If working on a roof, are there holes or openings that will be worked around? If so, will there be proper guarding around them? A good, comprehensive inspection of the site should be performed with personnel who are qualified, but who also have an eye for detail and are highly aware of their surroundings. The more details you check up front, the better your plan will be.
2. Don’t expect what you did not inspect … The second part of OSHA’s campaign centers around providing the proper equipment for the job. Depending on the job site and existing hazards, the right type of personal protective equipment (PPE) must be provided. This includes equipment ranging from ladders, to fall protection, to various other types of protection. Obviously we must provide people with PPE in order for them to work safely. Just because we provide the equipment, however, it does not mean that people will always wear it when they should. Too often, busy supervisors and foremen provide PPE but do not have the time or motivation to go back and inspect certain areas within the site to ensure that everyone is wearing and using their PPE correctly. Some employees may know they are supposed to wear it, but they still choose to not follow the rules, or may feel they are seasoned and experienced enough to take a few shortcuts to save time and do the job faster. Therefore it is important to verify that safe work practices related to PPE are being followed at all times. In other words, don’t expect what you did not inspect.
3. Show, don’t just tell … Confucius once said, “What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand." The third component of the campaign is about training employees on how to recognize fall hazards and properly use the PPE that you provide them with. You can make the most of this vital step by applying tried and true principles of adult learning. Here are just a few important principles that can help your employees to really get the most out of your fall prevention training:
a. Adults learn by doing. Whenever possible, have employees apply what they just learned from the training as soon as possible, using the equipment and gear in the work setting. The more hands-on your training is, the more they will learn.
b. Make it interactive. Classroom style lectures and trainings often have limited effectiveness for adults. Adding interactive components like videos, role plays, and activities goes a long way in helping employees to retain new information.
c. Give them feedback. Everyone learns best when they are provided with constructive feedback, but this is especially important in an adult learning context. People want to know if they are learning properly and if they are doing it right. Once people are using the PPE or applying new safe work practices they learned in the training, be sure to give them constructive, specific feedback on this as soon as possible.
These three simple principles can help you make the most out of your fall prevention training efforts in order to further reduce exposure and help prevent injuries and fatalities from falls.