Reading up on safety standards that apply to topics like floor and wall openings resulting from construction or maintenance work may seem mundane – but compliance with federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates on these potential hazards can be a very serious matter; in fact, in the most extreme cases, it can mean the difference between life and death.

Here are some tips for staying OSHA compliant and, more importantly, keeping your employees safe by properly guarding floor and wall openings:

Safety from the Floor Up

  • Regarding stairway floor opening’s, OSHA requires them to be guarded by a standard railing on all exposed sides, except for the stairway entrance. In the case of infrequently used stairways where traffic across an opening prevents the use of a fixed standard railing, a standard guard must be in place.
  • The standard railing requirement also applies to ladderway floor openings. Passage through the railing must be provided by a gate or offset in a way in which no person can walk directly into the opening.
  • Hatchway and chute floor openings also must be guarded. This guarding can be either a hinged opening of standard strength and construction or a removable railing with a toe board and fixed standard railings. Removable railings must stay in place, even when an opening is not in use.  When operating conditions necessitate feeding materials into a hatchway or chute opening, protection must be provided to prevent falls through the opening.
  • Skylight floor openings and holes must be guarded by standard screens or fixed standard railings on all exposed sides.
  • Infrequently used pit and trap door openings must be guarded by covers of standard strength and construction. When these covers are not in place, the opening must be constantly attended, or protected on all sides by a removable railing.
  • Manhole floor openings must be guarded by standard coverings.

Guidelines on Wall Openings

  • Every wall opening from which there is a drop of more than four feet must be guarded by a rail, roller, picket fence or half door. In addition, if there is exposure below to falling materials, a removable toe board also must be used. Grab handles on each side of the opening must be of standard strength and mounting and be centered approximately four feet above floor level.
  • Window wall openings from which there is a drop of more than four feet must be similarly guarded. Similar guidelines apply to window wall openings on stairway landings, platforms, and balconies. If an opening is below a landing or platform, as standard toe board must be provided.

Nearly all worksites have unprotected sides and edges, wall openings or floor holes at some point – and it’s critically important that these potential hazards are guarded as soon as they occur.

To learn more and stay informed of current OSHA guidelines and requirements, read our related posts or contact the experts at Premium Staffing. We have the resources you need to keep your workforce safe!

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