Preventing fall-from-height injuries in construction: effectiveness of a regulatory training standard
Introduction: A regulatory training standard for construction workers using fall protection equipment became mandatory in 2015 in the province of Ontario, Canada. By the end of the transition period in 2017, 418,000 workers had been trained to the new standard. Two primary research questions were posed: (1) To what extent does the WAH training affect practices at the worksite? and (2) Has there been a change in the incidence of fall-from-height injuries coincident with the introduction of the WAH Training Standard? Materials and methods: A longitudinal survey of 633 learners was conducted in 2017 at one-, four- and seven-week post-training. A quasi-experiment estimated the incidence of lost-time injuries attributed to falls from heights in 2017 compared to 2012-2014 for a census of construction workers insured for work disability in Ontario, Canada. Results: Learners self-reported substantial increases in knowledge of and improvements in safe work practices when working at heights. The incidence rate of lost-time claim injuries attributed to falls targeted by the training declined by 19.6% (95% CI: 10.7, -27.6), compared to corresponding declines of 2.1% (95% CI: -6.3, 9.9) for other fall injuries and 7.2% (95% CI: 1.8, 12.3) for non-fall traumatic injuries. The observed decline was largest among the smallest employers (<5 full-time equivalent employees). Conclusion: The evaluation findings provide consistent support for a conclusion that the mandatory training standard was effective in reducing the incidence of injuries targeted by the training. However, the effects were modest and did not eliminate the problem. Practical application: A mandatory training standard should be considered as one approach to preventing traumatic injuries. However, other approaches higher in the hierarchy of risk controls should also be considered.