Guarding Floors, Stairs, and Other Openings
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 2004-101
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This checklist covers regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under the general industry standard 29 CFR 1910.23. It applies to classrooms with permanent and temporary floor holes and openings greater than 1 inch in its least dimension, floor drains, manholes, hatchways, ladder openings, or pits; and raised open-sided floors, platforms, runways, or storage areas. For construction sites, please use the checklist Guardrails, Handrails, and Covers for Construction Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. The regulations cited apply only to private employers and their employees, unless adopted by a State agency and applied to other groups such as public employees. Definitions of terms in bold type are provided at the end of the checklist.
- Is every skylight floor opening and hole guarded by a standard skylight screen or a fixed standard railing on all exposed sides? [29 CFR 1910.23(a)(4)]
- Are all floor openings to stairways, ladderways, hatchways, chutes, or manholes guarded by a standard railing and toeboards (on all sides except the entrance) or other protective cover? [29 CFR 1910.23(a)(1), (2), (3), (5), and (6)]
- Is every temporary floor opening guarded by a standard railing or constantly attended by someone? [29 CFR 1910.23(a)(7)]
- Is every floor hole into which a person could fall guarded by either a standard railing and toeboard or floor hole cover? [29 CFR 1910.23(a)(8)]
Is every floor hole into which a person could not fall (because of fixed machinery, equipment, or walls) protected by a cover that leaves no openings more than 1 inch wide? [29 CFR 1910.23(a)(9)]
Note: The cover must be securely held in place to prevent tools or materials from falling through.
- Where doors or gates open directly onto a stairway, does a platform allow an effective width of at least 20 inches when the door swings open? [29 CFR 1910.23(a)(10)]
- Is every open-sided floor or platform that is 4 feet or more above the adjacent floor ground level guarded by a standard railing on all open sides? [29 CFR 1910.23(c)(1)]
- Is every runway guarded by a standard railing on all open sides that are 4 feet or more above the floor or ground level? [29 CFR 1910.23(c)(2)]
- Regardless of height, are all open-sided floors, walkways, platforms, or runways guarded with a standard railing and toeboard if they are above or adjacent to any dangerous equipment or operation? [29 CFR 1910.23(c)(3)]
- Is every open-sided floor or platform that is 4 feet or more above the adjacent floor ground level guarded by a toeboard if, beneath the open sides, (a) persons can pass, (b) machinery is moving, or (c) equipment could create a hazard of falling materials? [29 CFR 1910.23(c)(1)]
- Is every wall opening from which the drop is more than four feet guarded with a standard railing or other barrier? [29 CFR 1910.23(b)(1), (2) and (4)]
- Is every window wall opening guarded by slats, grill work, or standard railing if (a) it is at a stairway landing, floor, platform, or balcony from which the drop is more than 4 feet, and (b) the bottom of the opening is less than 3 feet above the platform or landing? [29 CFR 1910.23(b)(3)]
- Is every flight of stairs with four or more risers equipped with standard stair railings or standard handrails as specified below? [29 CFR 1910.23(d)(1)]
- On stairways less than 44 inches wide with both sides enclosed, at least one handrail is required, preferably on the right hand side descending.
- On stairways less than 44 inches wide with one open side, at least one stair railing must be on the open side.
- On stairways less than 44 inches wide with both sides open, one stair railing is required on each side.
- On stairways more than 44 inches wide but less than 88 inches wide, one handrail on each enclosed side and one stair railing on each open side is required.
- On stairways 88 or more inches wide, one handrai on each enclosed side, one stair railing on each open side, and one intermediate stair railing located approximately midway of the width is required.
Where standard railings are provided, do they meet the specifications shown in figure below? [29 CFR 1910.23(e)(1)]
Note: The rail must consist of a top rail at a height of 42 inches and a midrail at approximately 21 inches. The top rail must be smooth surfaced throughout the length of the railing.
- Are all stair railings between 30 and 34 inches from the top of the rail to the surface of the tread in line with the face of the riser at forward edge of tread? [29 CFR 1910.23(e)(2).
If wooden railings are used for guardrails, are the posts at least 2 inches by 4 inches and spaced less than 6 feet apart? [29 CFR 1910.23(e)(3)(I)]
Note: The top rail and intermediate rails must also be at least 2 inches by 4 inches stock.
- If pipe railings are used, are posts and top and intermediate rails at least 1-1/2 inches nominal diameter with posts spaced less than 8 feet on centers? [29 CFR 1910.23(e)(3)(ii)]
- If structural steel is used for guardrails, are the posts and top and intermediate rails (a) at least 2 inches by 2 inches by 3/8 inch angle irons, or (b) other metal shapes of equivalent bending strength with posts spaced not more than 8 feet on centers? [29 CFR 1910.23(e)(3)(iii)]
- Is the guardrail anchored and of such construction that it is capable of withstanding a load of at least 200 pounds applied in any direction at any point on the top rail? [29 CFR 1910.23(e)(3)(iv)]
- Are standard toeboards at least 4 inches in height provided at the floor of the guardrail? [29 CFR 1910.23(e)(4)]
- Are handrails constructed so that they can be easily grasped (i.e. rounded)? [29 CFR 1910.23(e)(5)]
Are all handrails and railings provided with a clearance of at least 3 inches between the handrail or railing and any other object? [29 CFR 1910.23(e)(6)]
Note: A distance less than this would make it difficult to get a good grasp in an emergency.
Are skylight screens constructed so that they are capable of withstanding a load of at least 200 pounds applied perpendicularly to any area on the screen? [29 CFR 1910.23(e)(8)]
Note: Sometimes people get on the roof and fall through skylight screens that are not designed to prevent this type of fall.
- Are wall opening barriers (rails, rollers, picket fences, and half doors) constructed and mounted so that the barrier is capable of withstanding a load of at least 200 pounds applied in any direction (except upward) at any point on the top rail 0or corresponding member? [29 CFR 1910.23(e)(9)]
Floor hole: an opening measuring between 1 and 12 inches in its least dimension in any floor, platform, pavement, or yard through which materials but not persons may fall.
Floor opening: an opening measuring 12 inches or more in its least dimension in any floor, platform, pavement, or yard through which persons may fall.
Runway: a passageway for persons, elevated above the surrounding floor or ground level, such as a footwalk along shafting or a walkway between buildings.
Wall opening: an opening at least 30 inches high and 18 inches wide in any wall or partition through which persons may fall (such as a chute opening).
- Page last reviewed: June 6, 2014
- Page last updated: June 6, 2014
- Content source:
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division