Working in the construction industry is fun and rewarding, but it can also be dangerous if proper safety precautions aren’t followed. More than 800 construction workers die on the job each year and falls are the leading cause of death in this sector, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The importance of gaining OSHA floor opening insight prior to entering a new construction site cannot be emphasized enough. In this line of work, there’s no such thing as too careful, so the more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to handle anything that comes your way. Floor openings are an obstacle you’ll face often on construction sites, so learn how to navigate them with grace.
Staying Safe Amid Floor Openings
Technically, your supervisor is responsible for ensuring you have the proper training and equipment to safely steer yourself around floor openings, but you need to maintain control of your own destiny. This can literally be a matter of life or death, so take it upon yourself to be informed.
Your supervisor or a knowledgeable peer should give you a tour of the construction site, point out floor openings and show you what safety measures to take to keep from falling. If this doesn’t happen, request this type of training.
When you’re ready to start work, you’ll be responsible for following OSHA guidelines on Guarding Floor and Wall Openings and Holes, so be sure you’re well informed. If you spot any potential hazards, report them to your supervisor immediately.
Three General Rules for Floor Opening Protection
All hatchway and chute floor openings should have one of the following protections:
Hinged Floor Opening Cover
A standard strength hinged floor opening cover equipped with standard — or permanent — railings should be in place while in use, leaving only one side exposed. The cover should be closed or the exposed sided guarded by removable standard railings when the opening is not in use.
Removable Railing With Toe Board
A removable railing with a toe board can be placed on up to two sides of the floor opening, while fixed standard railings with boards guard all other exposed sides. When the opening is not in use, the removable railings must be kept in place.
Personal Protective Equipment
If material must be fed into a hatchway or chute opening, personal protective gear should be provided to keep workers from falling through the floor opening. Workers must receive training on the right way to use this equipment and it must fit each person properly.
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