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Nelson & Associates :: Falls :: Floor Holes & Openings

Floor Holes and Openings


Authoritative Safety Literature

National Safety Council, Accident Prevention Manual for Industrial Operations, 1946.

  • Points at which men or materials may fall from one level to another should have protection in the form of railings, toeboards, wire screen enclosures, or a combination of two or more of these as required by conditions (See American Standards Association, Safety Code for Floor and Wall Openings, Railings and Toeboards, A12 – 1932).

  • Typical points at which need for these types of protection exist are open sides of scaffolds, ramps or runways, stairways, floor openings, wall openings, where there is a difference in floor or ground levels on the two sides, and open excavations. (emphasis added)

National Safety Council, Accident Prevention Manual for Business & Industry: Engineering & Technology, 12th Edition, 2001.

  • Surround with an enclosure guard all floor and roof holes, skylights, and openings into which persons can walk. Or cover them completely with material and bracing strong enough to support any expected or potential load. Secure coverings for floor and roof openings to prevent accidental removal or displacement.


General Industry Standards

The danger of workplace floor holes and openings has been recognized for decades and was the subject matter of one of the early ANSI safety standards, that being ANA A12 – Floor and Wall Openings, Railings, and Toe Boards, published in 1932. Later editions of this standard were published as USAS A12.1 in 1967, ANSI A12.1 in 1973, and ANSI A1264.1 in 1989, 1995, 2002, and 2007. Excerpts from these standard include the following:

American Standards Association (currently the American National Standards Institute), "Floor and Wall Openings, Railings, and Toe Boards," ASA A12, 1932.

  • Guarding of Floor Openings and Floor Holes –

    3.8. Every floor hole into which persons can accidentally walk shall be guarded by either: (a) A standard railing with standard toeboard on all exposed sides, or (b) A floor hole cover of standard strength and construction that should be hinged in place. While the cover is not in place, floor holes shall be constantly attended by someone or shall be protected by a portable enclosing railing that need not be of standard construction.

United States of America Standards Institute (currently the American National Standards Institute), USAS A12.1-1967, "USA Standard Safety Requirements for Floor and Wall Openings, Railings, and Toe Boards."

  • Guarding of Floor Openings and Floor Holes –

    3.8. Every floor hole into which persons can accidentally walk shall be guarded by either: (a) A standard railing with standard toeboard on all exposed sides, or (b) A floor hole cover of standard strength and construction that should be hinged in place. While the cover is not in place, floor holes shall be constantly attended by someone or shall be protected by a removable standard railing.

American National Standards Institute, ANSI A12.1-1973, "American National Standard Safety Requirements for Floor and Wall Openings, Railings, and Toeboards."

  • Guarding of Floor Openings and Floor Holes –

    3.8. Every floor hole shall be guarded by either: (a) a railing with toeboard on all exposed sides, or (b) a floor hole cover of sufficient strength. While the cover is not in place, the floor hole shall be attended or shall be protected by a removable guard railing.

American National Standards Institute, Inc., "American National Standard Safety Requirements for Workplace Floor and Wall Openings, Stairs, and Railings Systems," ANSI A1264A, 1989, 1995, and 2002.

  • Hole Protection –

    3.7. Every floor opening or hole into which persons can accidentally walk shall be guarded by either a railing system with toeboards along all exposed sides or a load-bearing cover. When the cover is not in place, the floor opening or hole shall be protected by a removable guard railing system or shall be attended.

American National Standards Institute, Inc., "American National Standard Safety Requirements for Workplace Walking/Working Surfaces and Their Access; Workplace, Floor, Wall and Roof Openings; Stairs and Guardrails Systems," ANSI A1264.1, 2007.

  • Section 2.4 – Floor Hole/Opening.

    Floor hole/opening measuring over two inches in any direction of a walking surface which persons may trip or fall into or where objects may fall to the level below.

  • Section 2.6 – Guardrail/Railing System/Stair Railing System.

    Framework of vertical, horizontal, or incline members, grillwork or panels, or combinations thereof, supporting a handrail and acting as a safety barrier for protection of persons at or near the outer edge of stair, ramp, landing, platform, hatchway, manhole, or floor opening.

  • Section 3 – Protection of Floor Openings and Floor Holes, Roof Openings and Roof Holes

  • Section 3.5 and 3.8 – Floor Opening or Hole.

    Every roof, floor opening, or hole into which persons can accidentally walk, shall be guarded by either a railing system with toeboards along all exposed sides or a load bearing cover. When the cover is not in place, the roof, floor opening or hole shall be protected by a removable guard railing system or shall be attended when the guarding system has been removed.

  • E3.8 –

    The provision of administrative controls, such as providing an attendant, should not be used in lieu of proper engineering controls such as railings, covers or other methods discussed in this standard. Attendance at a floor opening is only intended to provide an oral warning by the attendant to stay a safe distance (preferably) from the opening until a barrier or cover had been placed in position to adequately secure the opening from fall through hazards.


OSHA 29 CFR 1910.23 – Subpart D – Walking-Working Surfaces

U.S Department of Labor, 29 CFR 1910 Subpart D – Walking-Working Surfaces, 1910.21 – Definitions, 1910.23 – Guarding floor and wall openings and holes, 1978.

  • 1910.23(a)(8) Hole Protection. Every floor hole into which persons can accidentally walk shall be guarded by either:

    1. A standard railing with standard toeboard on all exposed sides

    2. A floor hole cover of standard strength and construction that should be hinged in place. While the cover is not in place, the floor hole shall be constantly attended by someone or shall be protected by a removable standard railing.

U.S Department of Labor, 29 CFR 1910 Subpart D – Walking-Working Surfaces, 1910.21 – Definitions, 1910.23 – Guarding floor and wall openings and holes, 2004.

  • 1910.23(a)(8) Hole Protection. Every floor hole into which persons can accidentally walk shall be guarded by either:

    1. A standard railing with standard toeboard on all exposed sides

    2. A floor hole cover of standard strength and construction. While the cover is not in place, the floor hole shall be constantly attended by someone or shall be protected by a removable standard railing.


Construction Industry Standards

Similarly, the danger of construction workplace floor holes and openings has also been recognized for decades, to include ANSI A10.18 – "American National Standard for Construction and Demolition Operations – Safety Requirements for Temporary Floor Holes, Wall Openings, Stairways and Other Unprotected Edges," published in 1977, 1983, 1996, and 2007. Highlights of the 1983 and 1996 editions are outlined below:

American National Standards Institute, ANSI A10.18-1983, "American National Standard for Construction and Demolition Operations – Temporary Floor and Wall Openings, Flat Roofs, Stairs, Railings, and Toeboards – Safety Requirements," 1983.

  • 5.1 Floor and roof openings shall be guarded by a cover, or railing on all exposed sides, or shall be constantly attended by a person.

American National Standards Institute, Inc., "American National Standard for Construction and Demolition Operations – Safety Requirements for Temporary Floor Holes, Wall Openings, Stairways and Other Unprotected Edges," ANSI A10.18, 1996.

  • 7.1 All holes shall be protected or attended. Protection shall be provided by hole cover or guardrail system. A standby person may be used to warn other persons until permanent protection is installed. 7.1.1.1. Hole covers shall be secured against accidental displacement and shall require a deliberate act to be removed.

OSHA 29 CFR 1926 – Subpart M – Floor Openings and Fall Protection

U.S. Department of Labor, 29 CFR 1926 Subpart M - Floor and Wall Openings, and Stairways, 1983.

  • 1926.500 (b)(1) Floor openings shall be guarded by a standard railing and toeboards or cover.

  • 1926.500 (b)(8) Floor holes, into which persons can accidentally walk, shall be guarded by either a standard railing with standard toeboard on all exposed sides, or a floor hole cover of standard strength and construction that is secured against accidental displacement.

U.S. Department of Labor, 29 CFR 1926 Subpart M - Fall Protection, 2004.

  • 1926.501(b)(4)(ii) Holes.

    Each employee on a walking surface shall be protected from tripping in or stepping into or through holes by covers.

  • 1926.502(i) – Covers.

    Covers for holes in floors, roofs, and other walking/working surfaces shall meet the following requirements:

    • 1926.502(i)(2) – [Pedestrian] 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.

    • 1926.502(i)(3) – All covers shall be secured when installed so as to prevent accidental displacement by the wind, equipment, or employees.

    • 1926.502(i)(4) – All covers shall be color coded or they shall be marked with the word "HOLE" or "COVER" to provide warning of the hazard.


Special note: Current cited ANSI and OSHA standards may be obtained from the following sources:


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