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An industrial catwalk is a narrow, elevated walkway or elongated platform used in industrial applications to provide safe access to elevated work areas. Catwalks, or runways, provide a means of access to equipment, maintenance areas and other hard-to-reach areas within a facility. The OSHA catwalk requirements for general industry address many design variables to ensure that these systems are safe for employees. OSHA sets the catwalk standards for the minimum width dimensions, minimum load requirements, fall protection requirements, and the catwalk opening requirements. Understanding these requirements can help ensure a safe work environment for equipment operators and maintenance personnel working on catwalks.
The OSHA catwalk standards are in place to ensure safe and healthful working and walking conditions for men and women using catwalks in the workplace. OSHA 29 CFR 1910 Subpart D - Walking-Working Surfaces addresses the requirements for catwalk dimensions, catwalk minimum load requirements, and catwalk fall protection.
The OSHA catwalk requirements are found in OSHA Section 1910 Subpart D - Walking-Working Surfaces. A catwalk, or runway, is an elevated walking-working surface, a foot walk along shafting, or an elevated walkway between buildings. A catwalk is also a type of work platform. Employers must ensure catwalks are maintained in safe, hazard-free conditions.
OSHA Section 1910.22 outlines the general conditions for walking-working surfaces, which includes catwalks. Employers must ensure that walking-surfaces are free of fall hazards, slip resistant, and structurally sound. Here are the key criteria for elevated working conditions with which employers must comply:
1910.22(a)(1) All places of employment, passageways, storerooms, service rooms, and walking-working surfaces are kept in a clean, orderly, and sanitary condition.
The OSHA catwalk width requirements are found in section 1910.28(b)(5)(ii)(A). Under this provision, a catwalk or runway must be at least 18 inches wide.
If a stairway accesses the catwalk, the width requirements depend on the width of the stairway that serves it. An OSHA catwalk serviced by a stairway is a type of stair landing. Under OSHA Section 1910.25(b)(4) the stairway landing must be at least the width of the stairway, which has a minimum width of 22". In that case, OSHA catwalks served by a stairway must have a minimum width of 22."
Catwalks accessed by IBC stairs must also be at least as wide as the IBC stair, which has a minimum width of 36." In that case, the catwalk should be minimum of 36" wide. Certain larger catwalks may actually be categorized as mezzanine structures and would need to comply with the IBC mezzanine egress requirements.
The OSHA catwalk load requirements are addressed in Section 1910.21 and 1910.22 - General requirements for Walking-working surfaces.
The maximum intended load means the total load (weight and force) of all employees, equipment, vehicles, tools, materials, and other loads the employer reasonably anticipates to be applied to a walking-working surface at any one time.
Under section 1910.22(b) Loads, the employer must ensure that each walking-working surface can support the maximum intended load for that surface.
For hole covers, section 1910.29(e) specifies that the employer must ensure each cover for a hole in a walking-working surface is capable of supporting without failure, at least twice the maximum intended load that may be imposed on the cover at any one time.
The OSHA catwalk handrail requirements are found in OSHA sections 1910.28 and 1910.29 - Fall protection systems and falling object protection-criteria and practices. A catwalk handrail or guardrail system is required for any catwalks higher than 4' above a lower level.
OSHA requires that employers provide fall protection for employees on any walking-working surface with an unprotected side or edge that is 4 feet or more above a lower level. The fall protection must be either a guardrail system, safety net system, or personal fall protection system.
In some cases, employers may mark part of the walking surface as a designated area delineated by a warning line in which employees may perform work without additional fall protection. These areas should only be designated for work that is both infrequent and temporary.
OSHA section 1910.28(b)(5)(i) requires that the employer must ensure each employee on a runway or similar walkway is protected from falling 4 feet or more to a lower level by a guardrail system.
When the employer can demonstrate that it is not feasible to have guardrails on both sides of a runway used exclusively for a special purpose, the employer may omit the guardrail on one side of the runway, provided the employer ensures the runway is at least 18 inches wide and each employee is provided with and uses a personal fall arrest system or travel restraint system.
Employers must also ensure that each employee less than 4 feet above dangerous equipment is protected from falling into or onto the dangerous equipment by a guardrail system or a travel restraint system, unless the equipment is covered or guarded to eliminate the hazard.
Typically open sides of catwalks are protected by guardrail systems. Below are the guardrail system design requirements for the different types of handrails that can be used as guardrail systems.
1910.29(k)(2)(ii) All openings in guardrail systems are small enough to prevent objects from falling through the opening.
OSHA also requires that elevated walkways like catwalks are equipped with protection from falling objects. The main safety feature of a catwalk to prevent falling objects is a toe board. A toe board, also called a kickplate, is a vertical projection from the walking surface around the edges of the walkway.
Below are the OSHA requirements for toe boards:
The OSHA catwalk opening requirements are found under OSHA section 1910.28 Duty to have fall protection and falling object protection. Catwalks may have floor holes within the walking surface, or vertical openings near the edge of the the walking surface. These holes and openings must be protected by a fall protection system to prevent employees from falling.
An Opening is a gap or open space in a wall, partition, vertical walking-working surface, or similar surface that is at least 30 inches high and at least 18 inches wide, through which an employee can fall to a lower level. Examples of vertical openings are wall openings, chute openings, and window openings.
A Hole means a gap or open space in a floor, roof, horizontal walking-working surface, or similar surface that is at least 2 inches in its least dimension. A hole is an opening in the floor. Examples of holes are drains, large cracks, broken floor boards, chutes, and pits.
For vertical wall openings or other vertical openings, OSHA section 1910.28(b)(7) states that where the inside bottom edge of the opening is less than 39 inches above the walking-working surface and the outside bottom edge of the opening is 4 feet or more above a lower level is protected from falling by the use of a guardrail system, safety net system, travel restraining system, or personal fall arrest system.
Industrial catwalks can greatly improve the layout and efficiency of work areas to provide elevated access for workers to equipment, mechanical, and maintenance areas. There are many design and safety variables to consider when choosing to install a catwalk system. Knowing the many OSHA regulations for these elongated work platforms or walkways can help make sure you are in compliance and are providing a safe work environment for employees.