Safety Gates in the OSHA Walking Working Surfaces
OSHA provides guidance on walking working surfaces to define the purpose of a safety gate. Included in this are the requirements, expectations of employers, openings and access points. Employers are required to use guardrail systems around holes that are access points by either installing gates at the opening of the guardrail or offsetting the opening so workers are no longer at risk of falling into the hole. Gate functionality requirements are:
- Must be self-closing
- Must either slide or swing away from the hole
- Must be equipped with top rails and midrails or equivalent intermediate members that meet the requirements in final paragraph (b) (final paragraph (b)(13)(i))
Safety Chain and Safety Gate Use
There is often confusion when defining a safety gate. Often you may see safety chains or a single bar placed at 42’’ used in place of a gate or guardrail system to act as a fall protection method. Generally these chains or single bar preventions are inadequate, per OSHA’s requirement of “providing a level of safety equivalent to guardrails” (1910.29(b)(10)).
The purpose of the guardrail opening (safety gate) is to be used as an access point, but when said access point is not in use, the gate should provide guardrail protection that meets guardrail criteria (200 pound load test, and 42” & 21” railing). OSHA adds in the Walking Working Surfaces Standard, “if an existing gate does not have a mid rail or equivalent intermediate member, OSHA believes it is feasible for employers to add one” (CITATION).
Adding fall protection equipment to your facility can be a difficult task, and you want to make sure you get the correct material where it’s needed. To gather more information or for quotes on Safety Gates, Guardrail systems, or for consultation, contact the EDGE Fall Protection Team!