Reaching new heights

22 November 2023

The fall protection industry is developing training programmes to provide career paths – via Trailblazers – to ensure the competence of the workforce. Graham Willmott provides an update.

During 2023 and as we head into 2024 the Fall Protection Industry is developing training programmes to provide career paths, via Trailblazers, for those that design, install and inspect these safety critical products, thus ensuring the competence of the workforce.

BS 8681:2024 will provide a complementary Standard to BS 7883:2019 for the purpose of providing the duty holder (which may include construction contractors, building managers or building owners & property professionals) with the checks and balances to determine the competence and professionalism of all those manufacturers, designers, fabricators, installers and inspectors operating within the fall protection industry.

The duty holder or auditing organisation (Safety Schemes in Procurement - SSIP) may use this standard as part of their auditing process as the annexes provide a check list that auditors may adopt during an ISO accreditation audit of those involved in providing fall protection solutions.

The key features of BS 8681 include:

  • The duty holder:

The duty holder has the right to expect that their property is designed, built, and maintained in a way that is safe. Persons who need to access and maintain parts of the property need to have confidence and trust in the providers responsible for manufacturing, specifying designing, installing and inspecting the access equipment and that safety is a priority.

  • Competence:

Competence of all who provide services and products throughout the life of a building is key to achieving this outcome. This British Standard formulates minimum bench marking for duty holders and other interested parties to establish the capability and competence of those manufacturing, designing, installing and inspecting Personal Fall Protection Systems (PFPS).

  • Behaviours:

The role of all involved in fall protection (i.e., the providers) is about behaviours as much as competency. The approach taken in BSI Flex 8670, which is reflected in this British Standard, is to embed behaviours in the functions, activities and tasks that are required to manage the provision of personal fall protection systems.

  • The Functional Roles:

Each of the functional roles are defined with the requirements and responsibilities including competence and behaviours, to fulfil their roles. These are defined under the following headings: -

a) duty holders;

b) manufacturers;

c) system designers;

d) installers;

e) inspectors;

f) other interested parties, e.g., specifiers, architects and structural engineers, and those who are responsible for the design of safe access and egress on buildings and structures.

g) auditors

  • Requirements:

There are a number of requirements within the Standard. A selection of just a few are listed below:

  1. Competence

  2. Supervision

  3. Mentoring

  4. Assessment

  5. Process Audit

  6. Management System

  7. Record Keeping

  8. Trainers

  9. Assessment and certification of trainees on completion of the course

  10. Minimum information to be given on the certificate, or other documentary evidence, issued for the course.

  11. Annexes

To Assist the auditing process detailed annexes are being developed for the following:

  1. General Requirements

  2. Competence

  3. Supervision

  4. Mentoring

  5. Business Process 

  6. Auditing

  7. Management System

  8. Record Keeping

  9. Trainers

  10. Manufacturer/fabricator

  11. Contractor

  12. System Designer

  13. Structural Engineer

  14. Installer

  15. Inspector 

  •  Public Consultation:

The chance to comment on this document is likely to be the spring of 2024. We urge all those within the fall protection industry to add their thoughts and comments and make this a world-class standard.
This Standard will complement BS 7883:2019 which is a best practice document used by industry which is widely considered to be the most important document relating to the installation and inspection of anchor systems, not only in the UK but also throughout the world.

Trailblazer & CSCS Cards

To assist with the above the first fall protection industry Trailblazer has been developed for the occupation of the Personal Fall Protection Technician – Permanent Solutions. This qualification has been levelled at NVQ Level 3 and is available for registration now on the CSCS website. 

The timing of this NVQ level 3 qualification aligns with the Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC) requirement that all construction industry card schemes must operate with nationally recognised qualifications, such as NVQs. Industry Accredited schemes are being phased out and CSCS will cease renewing cards issued via Industry Accreditation from 30th June 2024, while all Industry Accredited cards issued from 1st Jan 2020 will expire on 31st Dec 2024 and will not be renewed.

Historically fall protection manufacturer courses have focused on the product and product standards. Few courses provide the required training for assessing the structure and connecting the fall protection system to the structure to ensure the system is fit for purpose. The new Trailblazer will help address these issues following the guidance of the revised 7883:2019 Standard and the forth coming standard BS8681:2024. This combination of training and standards, BS 7883 & BS8681, will provide a benchmark for the industry. 

Now the first NVQ Level 3 qualification has been developed, the Trailblazer employers’ group, is set to develop further NVQs for the fall protection industry and create a career path for individuals working in the industry.

Graham Willmott is chairman of the BSIF Height Safety Group. For more information, visit