Almost all sites have unprotected sides and edges, wall openings, or floor holes at some point during construction. If these sides and openings are not protected at your site, injuries from falls or falling objects may result, ranging from sprains and concussions to death.
Unprotected holes in the floor, deck, or roof are responsible for a number of very serious injuries. Yet, through planning and personal attention, falls through openings under foot are very easy to prevent.
Safely covering a floor opening with a piece of plywood requires more than just laying the material over the hole, or even nailing it down. Total safety on the job means a total job of eliminating the hazard. Half a job…inadequate or incomplete jobs of covering hole hazards can result only in half, inadequate or incomplete accident prevention.
Here are a few tips:
1. If you make a hole, guard it. Before cutting the hole, barricade the work area to keep people out
2. If the hole must be open, install permanent barricades around the perimeter. Like railings around the edge of a building or stairwell, these should be a minimum of forty- two inches high, have a mid-rail and be capable of withstanding a 200 pound load. Toe boards are recommended at all times and are required if anyone is going to work under the hole.
3. Never cover a hole with any type of non-substantial material such as paper, cardboard or plastic. You may ask, “Why would anyone do that?” Unfortunately, it happens surprisingly often.
4. If the hole is not guarded, it must be covered. The cover must be capable of supporting at least a 200 pound load, be larger than the opening, secured against displacement, and labeled or marked with a danger or warning “DO NOT REMOVE”.
If you have a choice, make a round opening and cover. An oversized round cover cannot fall through a smaller round hole.
5. Be extremely careful if you have to walk over protective paper or plastic. A hole could be lurking underneath. Step very tentatively. If you find a hole, expose it immediately for others to see, barricade it or post someone to warn others of the danger, and notify your supervisor. Even shallow holes can cause serious injuries.
6. Plastic skylights and smoke vents are very popular. You should never stand or sit on a skylight. They are not made to support your weight. If you do sit or stand on one, odds are it will break and you will fall. If installing skylights, protect the openings as described above, until installation is complete.
The danger is very real. The control is very simple. This is a hazard that should never be allowed to exist.