Protection for Floor & Window Openings

Protection for Floor & Window Openings
Posted on in Safety Managers, Volunteers

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Guarding Floor and Wall Openings

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent reports, there were 829 fatalities from falls in the workplace in 2006. This figure does not take into account the thousands of others who ended up in a hospital or even in a wheelchair due to a fall. Many of these are accidents could have been avoided with a little bit of knowledge and patience.

The following safety procedures regarding protecting floor and wall openings will help ensure the safety of your employees and volunteers. Take a minute to read the precautions and be sure to enforce them on your worksites.


  • Install guardrails around openings in floors and across openings in walls when the fall distance is 6 feet or greater.
  • The top-rail should be approximately 42 inches high and be able to withstand a 200 lbs load. While the Mid rail should be half the distance from the floor to the Top rail, approximately 21 inches high.
  • You may think caution tape is enough to guard an opening, but caution tape WILL NOT break a fall if someone trips or stumbles near an opening. Caution tape simply helps to make the opening more visible… it should never be used to prevent falling through an opening.
  • Install toe boards when other workers are below the work area of an opening to prevent kicking tools or other materials through the opening and onto the workers below.


Floor Coverings

  • OSHA standards indicate floor openings larger than 2×2 inches should be covered with material to safely support the working load. Floor coverings must be marked properly and secured so that they do not shift or allow for slipping, and simply so that workers know the piece of material is covering an opening.. This may seem trivial, but in the program we’ve seen injuries due to unmarked, unsecured floor coverings.
  • In one claim, two workers cleaning up a jobsite pickup an unsecured, unmarked piece of plywood, one worker at each end; as they began walking, one worker fell through the hole it was covering. The worker sustained many broken bones and suffered internal injuries. His injuries could’ve been prevented had the covering been properly marked and secured.


These safety practices are not only beneficial to the health of your employees and volunteers, they are also beneficial to the financial well being of your affiliate – many times jobsite accidents can lead to expensive, time consuming lawsuits. Take charge, and make sure your volunteers and employees understand, and practice, these floor opening guarding tips.

And remember to always get a signed waiver from all volunteers prior to them working on the jobsite! If you have any questions about this information please call the Habitat for Humanity Affiliate Insurance Program at (888) 553-9002.

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