Safety

Safety and Health Bulletins

On the Safe Side: Protecting Elevator Shafts and Stairway Openings

Unprotected elevator shafts and stairway openings have contributed to many fall fatalities and serious injuries to our members throughout the United States and Canada.  This safety bulletin highlights the common hazards associated with work activities around elevator shafts and stairway openings on steel erection and poured in-place concrete structures.   The International Associations’ “2014 ZERO Fatality” campaign targets the “deadly dozen hazards” that includes falls, and unprotected elevator shafts and stairway openings is a hazard that must be recognized and avoided.

Recognizing Responsibility for Stairway and Elevator Shaft Openings.

The following photograph illustrates a common concrete block stairway shaft that was built prior to the steel erection process.  The responsibility for protecting both stairway and elevator shaft openings must be identified and addressed by the steel erection contractor during the bidding process in the same manner as perimeter safety cables.  

Typically, the steel erection contractor will include the installation of cable guardrail systems on perimeter columns that have been fabricated with holes or other similar devices to accept the safety cables.  The guarding of interior floor opening by planking, plywood, or other methods is also typically addressed by the steel erection during the bidding process.   Unfortunately, potential fall hazards at stairway and elevator shaft openings continue to exist, and the responsibility to provide common guarding or barricades has often been overlooked. 

Common Considerations for Anchorage Points and Barricade Systems   

Unlike perimeter structural steel columns that have been fabricated with holes or lugs during the fabrication process, stairway and elevator shafts constructed with concrete blocks or poured in place concrete require consideration to prevent fall hazards.  Ironworkers installing metal decking or performing other activities such openings must recognize and avoid these hazards.  The following are common considerations that must be addressed prior to the framing structural member or installing decking around stairway and elevator shaft openings.

  • What anchorage systems and barricade systems will be used?
  • Who is contractually responsible for installing and maintaining them?
  • When will the opening be protected by common barricade systems to prevent fall hazard?
The following photograph illustrates the ironworker framing around the existing concrete block stairway that resulted in an unprotected opening and fall hazard to all the ironworkers on the erection floor that is illustrated in the above photograph.  It is important for our steel erection contractors and members throughout the United States and Canada to recognize and avoid fall hazards that are created around stairway and elevator shaft openings.  In the United States, the employer is required to perform workplace safety inspections on a “frequent and periodic basis” by a competent person to recognize and abate such unforeseen hazards.