Holes in the walking/working surface can be a nuisance but also a lifesaver. When covered, they prevent twisted ankles, wrenched knees, broken legs and even death. OHSA regulations say that any opening in the walking/working surface that is 2” or greater in its least dimension is a hole. The regulations don’t address a minimum depth, so that is up to the OSHA Enforcement Officer’s judgement.
There are more ways to get injured by a hole than by just stepping into it. For example, if a wheel or leg of anything that elevates the worker slides, falls, or is placed over a hole, that could cause an unbalanced working platform and someone could be injured by falling from the elevated work surface.
OSHA requires holes to be covered or guarded.
- When located in a roadway and vehicular aisles, must be capable of supporting, without failure, at least twice the maximum axle load of the largest vehicle expected to cross over the cover.
- All other covers shall be capable of supporting, without failure, at least twice the weight of employees, equipment, and materials that may be imposed on the cover at any one time.
- Covers must be secured when installed so as to prevent accidental displacement by the wind, equipment or employees.
- All covers shall be color coded or they shall be marked with the word “hole” or “cover” to provide warning of the hazard.
A guardrail must be installed as any other guardrail that would be constructed for fall protection:
- A toprail installed at 42” + or – 3” that can withstand a 200 pound outward force
- A midrail half way between the toprail and the working surface that can withstand a 150 pound force
- A toeboard, when there are workers below that stands at least 3.5” tall and withstands a 50 pound force