A recent incident in Manitoba highlights the importance of properly guarding floor openings.
The incident: A worker was performing housekeeping duties on a construction site and came across a piece of plywood on the floor. The worker picked up the plywood and took a step forward. While doing so, the worker fell through a hole in the floor to the basement. That worker will spend the next five months in the hospital and is not expected to walk again.
Holes in floors — whether they’re from openings for vents, HVAC lines, or stairs to the basement — are common and can cause injuries that range from minor to catastrophic, as the incident above describes. All floor openings should be identified and covered, or temporary guard rails installed.
The presence of holes in floors on construction sites should be communicated to all workers via hazard assessments, worksite inspections (posted for all to review), and signage posted at entrances and in areas where floor holes are present.
Adequate protection for open holes is a requirement of the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act and Regulation, meaning holes must be covered or guardrails must be used.
Part 30 of the WSH Regulation outlines the following:
30.5 When an opening in a temporary floor cannot be adequately protected by a guardrail, an employer must ensure that:
- The opening is completely covered with securely fastened planks or other materials capable of supporting any load that will be or is likely to be imposed on them; and
- The covering is clearly, visibly, and legibly marked to identify the hazard.
Caution tape around a floor hole is not a sufficient method to protect workers from falling.
Part 14 of the WSH Regulation outlines the following for guardrail requirements 14.4(1)
14.4(1) An employer must ensure that a guardrail:
- Is at least 900 mm high and not more than 1,060 mm above the working surface, with an intermediate rail at between 450 and 530 mm above the working surface; and
- Is constructed and secured to resist a static load of 900 N in any direction in which the load may be applied at any point on the top rail and on any intermediate rail. (900 N = 202 pounds)
If you have any questions about safety on YOUR jobsite, we can help. Give us a call at 204-775-3171 in Winnipeg or 204-728-3456 in Brandon.