Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA

OSHA Occupational Safety and Health Administration
U.S. Department of Labor

Process: Housekeeping Safety


Areas of Concern – Walkways and Working Surfaces

Approximately 20 percent of non-fatal work injuries in shipyards each year result from slips, trips and falls. However, these incidents can be prevented with the proper safety precautions in place.  Under 29 CFR 1915.81, OSHA requires all walkways and working surfaces to be free of hazards such as debris, obstructions, and slippery conditions. Slips, trips, and falls can be caused by conditions such as ice, standing water, grease, polished decks, loose boards or uneven walking surfaces, poorly placed electrical cords, and damaged ladder steps. The controls needed to prevent these hazards are usually simple, such as keeping walkways and stairs clear of debris, coiling up extension cords and hoses when not in use, keeping electrical and other wires out of the way, wearing appropriate footwear, and clearing parking areas, stairs, docks and walkways in snowy weather. The sections below give information on walkway and working surface hazard prevention.

Walkways and Working Surfaces

Employers are responsible for establishing and maintaining good housekeeping practices to eliminate hazards to workers (29 CFR 1915.81(a)(1)). Good housekeeping practices for walkways and working surfaces that employers must pay particular attention to include:

  • Eliminating slippery conditions, such as snow and ice, on walkways and working surfaces. Where employers are unable to remove slippery conditions, two alternatives are appropriate: (1) restricting worker passage or access to safe areas (29 CFR 1915.81(a)(2)(i)), or (2) providing workers with slip-resistant footwear (29 CFR 1915.81(a)(2)(ii)).
  • Storing materials in a way that will prevent tripping or struck by hazards (29 CFR 1915.81(a)(3)).
  • Allowing adequate access to emergency notification devices, firefighting equipment, and exits (e.g., ladders, staircases, scaffolds, and gangways) (29 CFR 1915.81(a)(4)), as well as providing walkways that are free from tools, debris, and electrical cables or hoses obstructing safe passage (29 CFR 1915.81(b)(1)).
  • Preventing or immediately responding to processes that create wet conditions (e.g., standing water) for workers. Employers must maintain dry standing places for workers through drainage, false floors, mats, or other protective measures, or provide workers with protective footgear where dry conditions are not possible to maintain (29 CFR 1915.81(c)(3)); and
  • Making sure that workers have sufficient planking for safe footing while work is being performed in a boiler (29 CFR 1915.77(b)).


Ladders are often used by workers in ship repair and shipbuilding operations, as there is usually limited permanent access available for access to work areas. The frequent inspection of ladders is necessary to identify any that are damaged, need repair, or require disposal. Employers must:

  • Immediately remove ladders with defects from service. This includes broken or missing rungs or steps, broken or split side rails, corroded parts, or improper construction (29 CFR 1915.72(a)(1)).
  • Ensure that portable ladders are lashed, blocked, or otherwise secured to prevent displacement during use (29 CFR 1915.72(a)(3)).
  • Verify that any ladder repairs have been done in accordance with 29 CFR 1915.72.
  • Ensure that any sections of ladders spliced were placed with ends abutted, and no fewer than two cleats securely nailed or bolted to each rail (29 CFR 1915.72(a)(2)).
  • Barricade gratings, walkways, and catwalks where sections or access ladders have been removed (29 CFR 1915.73(g)).

Guarding Deck Openings and Edges

In shipyard employment, workers may be exposed to deck openings and unguarded edges during the construction and repair of vessels. Employers must protect workers from falls from unguarded openings and edges. The following measures, as required in (29 CFR 1915.73), can help to protect workers:

  • Flush manholes or other small openings must be covered or guardrails installed at least to a height of 30 inches.
  • Coamings at least 24 inches high must be present around open hatches or other large openings; otherwise, guardrails must be installed that reach a height of 36 - 42 inches.
  • Unguarded edges of decks, platforms, and other flat surfaces that are more than 5 feet above a lower level must have guardrails containing a top rail height of 42 - 45 inches, unless the use of such guardrails is impracticable as a result of the nature of the work or physical conditions of the work location. Where workers are working on vessels afloat with edges of decks left unguarded, employers must ensure workers wear a personal flotation device to protect them if they fall into the water.


Stairs brought in and installed for worker access to the vessel or within the vessel during construction, repair or overhaul must comply with the provisions specified in 29 CFR Part 1910:

  • Fixed stairs must be provided for access from one structure level to another where operations require regular travel between levels, including access to operating platforms for any equipment that requires routine attention during operations.
  • Any fixed stairway must be designed and installed to carry a load of five times the normal live load anticipated or at least 1,000 pounds, whichever is greater.
  • Stair treads and nosings must be reasonably slip resistant.
  • Railings must be installed at all stairway and platform locations where open sides are present. Closed stairways require a handrail on at least one side, preferably on the right side, in a descending direction.

G-18, G-19

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