Changes in fall prevention training for apprentice carpenters based on a comprehensive needs assessment

J Safety Res. 2010 Jun;41(3):221-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jsr.2010.01.006. Epub 2010 Apr 22.


Problem: Falls from heights in residential construction are common, especially among inexperienced workers.

Methods: We conducted a comprehensive needs assessment to determine gaps in the school-based apprentice carpenters' fall prevention training. A team of carpenter instructors and researchers revised the fall prevention training to fill these gaps. Apprentice evaluation and feedback guided ongoing curricular improvements.

Results: Most apprentice carpenters performed work tasks at heights prior to training and fall protection techniques were not commonly used at residential construction sites. Priorities of the revised school-based training included safe ladder habits, truss setting, scaffold use, guarding floor openings, and using personal fall arrest systems. New apprentices were targeted to ensure training prior to exposure at the workplace. We used adult learning principles to emphasize hands-on experiences. A framed portion of a residential construction site was fabricated to practice fall protection behaviors in a realistic setting. The revised curriculum has been delivered consistently and apprentice feedback has been very favorable.

Conclusions: Integration of needs assessment results was invaluable in revising the school-based carpenters apprentice fall prevention curriculum. Working closely with the instructors to tailor learning experiences has provided preliminary positive results.

Impact on industry: The fall safety of the residential construction industry continues to lag behind commercial construction and industrial settings. The National Occupational Research Agenda includes a Strategic Goal to strengthen and extend the reach of quality training and education in the construction industry via mechanisms such as construction safety and health training needs assessments. This study demonstrates how a structured process can be used to identify and remedy gaps and improve training effectiveness. We encourage others to take steps to assess and increase the impact of training efforts directed at all residential construction professionals; including both union and non-union workers. The implications are even greater in the non-union sector where most U.S. residential work is done.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control*
  • Accidents, Occupational / prevention & control*
  • Curriculum
  • Data Collection
  • Educational Measurement
  • Educational Status
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Missouri
  • Needs Assessment*
  • Occupational Health*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Qualitative Research
  • Safety Management*