Height training standards get a lift

RECENT changes to the standard for the manufacture of height safety products deliver a higher specification at product level; however they are not so relevant if they are not accompanied by a change in approach and attitude by organisations and their workforce as to correct equipment use.

RECENT changes to the standard for the manufacture of height safety products deliver a higher specification at product level; however they are not so relevant if they are not accompanied by a change in approach and attitude by organisations and their workforce as to correct equipment use.

Despite a concerted effort by government authorities to enforce compliance with safety guidelines, the numbers of deaths as a result of falls from height has increased across both Australia and New Zealand countries in the past 2 years.

It is clear then, that regulators and end users should continue to review educational standards and drive the reform agenda across industry.

Available now for public comment, is the draft of AS/NZS1891.4 Selection Use & Maintenance of Fall Protection Equipment, which recommends practices users should adopt to ensure they work safely in high risk work environments such as working from heights.

This effectively aligns the principles of product design into recommendations for use and maintenance. One of the more significant additions in the new public draft is the focus on the importance of training as a key factor in maintaining a high level of operator safety during equipment use, and the change of wording from “should be trained” to “shall be trained”.

All manufacturers of fall arrest equipment applaud this development.

Importantly, there is finally some clarity to the levels of education that should exist for users who expose themselves to the daily risks of working at height.

Education levels are specified depending on an individual’s potential exposure to risk and the competency required to mitigate this risk.

These include:

• Height Safety Theory

• Entry Level Operator

• Competent Operator

• Competent Equipment Inspector

• Height Safety Technologist

Despite these developments, there remains a disconnection between the educational specifications and the alignment of a height safety education framework that can deliver these.

This alignment will take some time, however in the interim companies need some guidance on how they can provide education that will keep their workers safe.

This is also needed to ensure that there is some quality mechanism to select a suitable training provider beyond the normal requirements of stating that the course is “nationally recognised”.

There are currently too many courses available on the market that are classified as complying with a national competency that in fact fall well short of providing the necessary practical skills to operate in a safe working environment.

Therefore a useful interim set of criteria for course and training provider selection or assessment is as follows:• Ensure training company is a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) in Australia or recognised by OSH in NZ as a suitable training organisation; • Ensure the skill base of the trainer actually delivering the course is suitable. This should include a resume of previous experience in working at height and relevant education in delivering such course (e.g. Certificate 4 in Workplace Training & Assessment, Manufacturer endorsed training courses, Train-the-Trainer education etc);• The course length should be commensurate with competency levels being offered or promoted — a 4-hour course might be suitable for covering basic height theory however it will not provide an individual with competency in climbing techniques beyond that theory base;• The course should provide both a theoretical and practical basis of education — there should be a mix of both. Too many courses are reliant on classroom based education where height safety risk is a practical issue;• The course should be competency based — a course offering a certificate of attendance does not require a written or practical assessment. It will therefore be difficult for the employer to assess whether the education provided to their employees has been absorbed by the employee/subcontractor.• The course should be based upon competencies relevant to and specifically dealing with height safety.

Like many other areas of business performance, selecting training for your work force should be an activity in prudent due diligence and should be addressed as in a court of law.

If you have any doubts about the quality of the education being selected, the best question is to ask yourself is ‘has the course I am selecting going to give my workers the best chance of minimising risk to themselves, working in a safe way and providing the company and myself protection if something goes wrong?’. If the answer is no, then you have your answer.

Capital Safety Australia & New Zealand 02 9748 0335