Sharp Edges on Ceiling Hatch Door Cuts Contractor’s Elbow
An electrical contractor was working with his head and arms above the ceiling in a ceiling access hatch located in the basement hallway of a customer’s building, when he hit his left elbow on a sharp section of the hatch door while climbing down a stepladder. The incident caused approximately a one-inch laceration to his left elbow. Upon evaluation, the site nurse referred the contractor to an occupational health center as she felt the laceration was in a location that could not be secured without sutures. The doctor at the occupational health center confirmed the nurse’s evaluation and applied sutures to the wound, causing the otherwise small cut to be OSHA recordable. The contractor was returned to work without restrictions.
Investigation of the incident revealed that the contractor was wearing a short sleeve shirt, as long sleeves were not required for the job. Also a pipe was located above the hatch, in the middle of the opening, preventing the contractor from entering the space away from the hatch door side of the opening. Other contractors had used this and other hatch doors, with the same sharp edges, for many months. During this time, none of the contractors had reported a concern with the edges, nor had they taken precautions to protect themselves while accessing the openings. There was obviously a failure to identify the sharp edges by many people who had contact with the hatch doors; a failure to communicate the recognized hazard if it was recognized; and/or a failure to follow through with a report of the concern for corrective action, if this condition was noticed and reported.
Following the incident the sharp edges of the hatch door were covered with duct tape to identify and provide some protection if the edges were contacted again. The use of yellow duct tape is preferred for this purpose.