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Sharp Edges on Ceiling Hatch Door Cuts Contractor’s Elbow

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.

Factors to consider at your site and/or project include, but not limited to the following:

  1. Ensure that access hatches are sourced without sharp edges that may present a hazard to the people who will enter them.
  2. Ensure that the building owner, contractor management and/or safety person, and each craft person conducts a preplanning assessment of the hazards of the area where work will be preformed.  The results of these assessments must be resolved with corrective measures and communicated to any future contractors who will work in the area.
  3. Ensure that the specification and installation of access hatch doors do not expose someone to sharp edges or restricted their access to enter the space.
  4. Ensure that a competent person conducts a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Hazard Assessment for every task that is performed.  The result of this assessment should result in the elimination the hazard, administrative controls, or the implementation of appropriate PPE as a last result to ensure the safety of the people performing the task.
  5. Ensure that personnel have been instructed to report any recognized safety concern to the appropriate person.
  6. Ensure that effective minimum requirement PPE policies are established for common tasks that are conducted.  For example, in this incident tasks preformed in above ceiling areas should require long sleeves or cut-resistant protective sleeves.
Consider this example as you complete today’s work activities.
Safety Flash Action Items:
  • Date Contractor Safety Flash posted for all employees to review: _______________
  • Safety Talk meeting date: _______________
  • Full employee attendance and participation at safety meeting to review this incident (documentation required).
  • Employees understand urgency in protecting themselves and others.
  • Supervisors and Employees are clear which items shared in this Safety Flash are mandatory.
  • Employees/Supervisors will focus on recommended actions during future work activities of a similar nature.
Contract Firm Management Rep Signature____________________

Think about the hazards associated with your particular work, and the steps that can be taken to increase safety on your job.


If you have questions about this Contractor Safety Flash or would like additional information, please contact [email protected]

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