Basic Overview of Walking and Working Surfaces

The following information is a general overview of major points and standards developed from OSHA 29 CFR Part 1910, Subpart D. Walking and Working Surfaces for General Industry.

Key Terms:

  • Floor Hole: opening less than 12 inches but more than 1 inch
  • Floor Opening: an opening greater than 12 inches where a person may fall
  • Toeboard: barrier to prevent the falling of materials
  • Standard Railing: barrier to prevent persons from falling
  • Wall Hole: an opening less than 30 inches but more than 1 inch high of unrestricted width, in any wall or partition
  • Wall Opening: an opening greater than 30 inches high and 18 inches wide

General Requirements:

  • All places of employment, passageways, storerooms, and service rooms shall be kept clean and orderly and in a sanitary condition
  • Aisles and passageways shall be kept clear and in good repairs, with no obstruction across or in aisles that could create a hazard
  • Covers and/or guardrails provided to protect personnel from the hazards of open pits, tanks, vats, ditches, etc.
  • Load rating limits shall be posted on all cover plates

Floor Openings, Wall Openings, and Holes:

  • Railingsto be provided on all exposed sides of a stairway except entrance
  • Guardrails to be in place or attendant posted at all temporary floor openings
  • Floor holes to have standard railing with toeboard or hole cover of standard strength and construction
  • Every hatchway or chute opening to be guarded
  • Platforms 4 feet or more above ground shall be guarded by standard railing on all open sidesexcept entrance to ramp, stairway, or fixed ladder

Railing, Toeboard, and Cover Specifications:

  • Top rails shall have a vertical height of 42 inches nominal from upper surface of top rail to floor
  • Protection between top rail and floor, platform, runway, ramp, or stair treads, equivalent at least to that afforded by a standard intermediate rail
  • Height of handrails shall be not more than 34 inches nor less than 30 inches from upper surface of handrail to surface of tread
  • Toeboard should be nominal 4 inches in vertical height and have no more than 1/4 inch clearance above floor level
  • Roadway manhole covers to handle at least 20,000 pounds
  • Skylight screens must be able to carry at least 200 pounds
  • 200 pounds for wall opening covers


  • Every flight of stairs with 4 or more risers shall have standard railings or hand rails
  • Stairways less than 44 inches wide having both sides enclosed, must have at least one handrail that is affixed, preferably of right side descending
  • Less than 44 inches wide with open side, one affixed handrail on open side
  • Less than 44 inches wide with two open sides, two handrails to be provided on each side
  • Fixed industrial stairs are to carry 5 times anticipated load
    • Minimum moving concentrated load of 1000 pounds
    • Minimum width of 22 inches
    • Angle to horizontal between 30 and 50 degrees
    • Vertical clearance from tread to overhead a minimum of 7 feet


  • Must extend at least 3 feet above point of support
  • Never to be placed near electrical hazards
  • Foot of ladder placed 1/4 height on lateral
  • Never splice ladders to elongate
  • Never use as platforms
  • Secure footing, or lashed or held in position
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