This case involves a carpenter who was severely injured on a construction site. At the time of the incident in question, the man was working on a large housing development and was working on the second floor of one of the incomplete homes. As he was walking across the floor carrying a large piece of lumber he suddenly fell through a hole in the unfinished floor and suffered severe injuries to his left leg. It was discovered that the hole had been covered with a piece of plywood that had not been secured, allowing it to slip off of the hole it was covering.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Please describe your construction site safety experience.
- 2. How should holes like this be addressed?
- 3. What could have been done to prevent this incident from happening?
Expert Witness Response E-080479
I have over 15 years of construction safety experience as a safety manager/director. I have served as an owner’s representative safety leader, as well as a safety leader for general contractors and subcontractors. I am a Certified Safety Professional and an OSHA Construction Outreach Trainer, so I teach OSHA 10 and 30-hour courses and issue cards. OSHA is very specific and clear about holes on working/walking surfaces. OSHA law states that any hole 2 inches or larger must be covered by a material that can support at least twice the weight that might be imposed upon it, must be secured to prevent displacement just like what happened in this case, and must be either color-coded or marked “HOLE” or “COVER” to provide warning of the hazard. This is a very easy fix, and unfortunately is a very common problem on construction sites. In this case, plywood is an acceptable cover as long as it is strong enough to hold 2x the potential weight. We typically use 3/4 inch plywood. What was missed here is that the cover had to be secured. Lastly, the plywood had to be marked – the most common solution is just to use spray paint or marking paint and write “HOLE” directly on the plywood. These simple fixes comply with the law.
Expert Witness Response E-046791
I have managed safety for regional and national construction companies for over 35 years. Fall protection has always been a major focus due to the severity of fall injuries and frequency of fatalities. There are a variety of ways to handle floor holes such as covers, guardrails, etc. Hole covers must be secured to prevent accidental displacement, color coded or marked as a hole cover, and be capable of supporting twice the expected load that they will be subjected to. Fall protection standards are rather straightforward. I have managed safety for regional and national construction companies for over 35 years.