Protect your holes!

OSHA Toeboard Requirements

Houston, Texas |  May 5, 2021 3:19 PM

Ever looked at an engineering drawing and noticed how nicely everything comes together? Everything is perfect! Unfortunately, during the construction stage, that perfection quickly fades. A hole may be positioned in a specific location on the surface, but the pipe doesn’t quite line up. Options become limited once the mistake is discovered. Either the decking can be replaced or the hole size increased, typically opting for the latter.

Once the hole is enlarged, action must be taken to prevent dropped objects from falling onto the walking-working surface.  With that in mind, let’s take a look at the following questions…

What is a hole, and when is it large enough to require protection?  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Walking-Working Surfaces standard 1910.21(b) states that a “hole is a gap or open space in a floor, roof, horizontal walking-working surface, or similar surface that is at least 2 inches (5 cm) in its least dimension.”

When the previous criterion is met, what must be done?  When a hole exists, OSHA standard 1910.28(C) and 1910.29(k)(1) states that employers must protect employees from falling objects.  One way they suggest doing this is by erecting toeboards, or kickplates [1910.28(C)(1)].  As defined in 1910.21(b), “a toeboard means a low protective barrier that is designed to prevent materials, tools, and equipment from falling to a lower level.”

What is the toeboard requirement?  OSHA 1910.29(k)(1)(ii) states that it must “have a minimum vertical height of 3.5 inches (9 cm) as measured from the top edge of the toeboard to the level of the walking-working surface.”

Once it is identified that a toeboard is required, the following options exist:

Welding – This is the most popular, although the most expensive, option.  This method requires welding metal banding to metal grating and checker plate style surfaces.  Installation requires running welding leads; cutting, bending, and tacking metal banding; and painting or galvanizing.  This option is also not the easiest to remove in the event of rework, repairs, or renovations.

Bonding – This is an option used on fiberglass surfaces where welding is not an option.  Installation usually consists of cutting strips of fiberglass to the correct size and using the epoxy resin to join it to the surface.  Installation may be difficult because there is usually insufficient surface area to get a good bond.

Fastening / Anchoring – This option may be used on all surfaces.  The material used may be polyurethane links or collars, wood, metal, etc.  These are usually installed by fastening hardware through the toeboard material to the surface.  This is usually the least expensive option, and in the event rework or renovations are needed, this is the easiest to remove.

Now that you know what to look for, look around to see if you have any holes that need protecting!

For more information on our Intrepid Toeboards (T5) click here or give us a call at  281-479-8301.

For more information visit or, call (281) 479-8301 or email Paxton Guidroz direct at