Toolbox Talk: Floor Openings

By Nov 15, 2022
Illustration of orange traffic cones surrounding a manhole with a ladder in it. Image by Getty Images / Nirain / Golden Sikorka.

Upon completion of this safety talk, participants will be able to understand the risks associated with floor openings and be familiar with ways to secure an opening in a floor.





Upon completion of this safety talk, participants will be able to:

  • Understand the risks associated with floor openings

  • Be familiar with ways to secure an opening in a floor

Floor openings are common at most job sites. Unprotected holes in floors, decks or roofs are responsible for many serious injuries. Through planning and attention, these kinds of injuries are easy to prevent.

Some helpful starting points include:

  • If you make a hole, guard it. Before a hole is even cut, barricade the area to keep people away.

  • If a hole must remain open, permanent barriers should be installed around the perimeter. Like other railings at a job site, these should be at least 42 inches high, have a midrail and be able to withstand a 200-lb. load. Toeboards are recommended, and are required if an employee will be working under the hole.

  • If not guarded, a hole must be covered. The cover must be able to support at least 200 lbs., be larger than the opening, secured so the cover won’t move or be able to be lifted and labeled “Floor Opening, Do Not Remove” or “Hole.” If possible, make a round opening and cover, because an oversized cover can't fall through a smaller round hole.

  • Holes should never be covered with non-sturdy materials such as paper, cardboard or plastic because they will not be able to support 200 lbs.

  • Always be very careful when walking over protective paper or plastic because there may be a hole underneath. If a hole exists, expose it immediately so others can see it, barricade it and notify a supervisor.

  • Never stand or sit on a skylight—these aren’t meant to support a person’s weight. They will break and you will fall.

  • When installing a skylight, protect the opening until the installation is complete. 

The danger of these types of falls is very real. Controlling the danger is simple, so there is no reason for it to ever exist.

Discussion questions: 

  • What should you do if you find an unexpected hole?

  • Why should you be cautious when walking over protective paper or plastic?

  • What characteristics does a cover need?

  • When should permanent barriers be installed around a floor opening?

Header image by Getty Images / Nirain / Golden Sikorka.





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