Safety Pit Covers: The Complete Industrial Guide
October 06, 2022
Pratfalls may be comedy gold, but in the workplace, falls are no laughing matter. Even if you think your employees are too smart or attentive to wind up at the bottom of a pit, it only takes a momentary distraction to send them tumbling.
If your business includes a hole in the floor, a safety pit cover is the easiest and most sensible way for you to protect your employees and remain in compliance with OSHA requirements. Read on to learn everything you need to know about safety pit covers.
What is a safety pit cover?
A safety pit cover is exactly what it sounds like – a shield that spans an industrial pit to prevent people or equipment from falling inside. If you have oversized CNC gantry machines that sit in pits themselves, these covers can also protect the ways and guides of those machines as well.
A pit cover shields the floor opening but can be easily removed so employees can access the opening when needed. Pit covers can be customized to the size of your floor opening, ensuring a safe fit.
OSHA Requirements and the Cost of Pit Safety
Businesses with floor openings are subject to OSHA article 1910.22, which requires employers to “protect personnel from the hazards of open pits, tanks, vats, ditches, etc.” through the use of covers or guardrails.
While a simple guardrail would fulfill the basic OSHA requirements, is it worth the risk of a serious employee injury to save money on facility costs?
It may be tempting to implement the bare minimum safety standards, but those initial savings may be an illusion. If a worker is hurt or killed, you are liable to lose much more than you saved, and one of your valuable employees stands to lose even more than that.
Preventive safety measures don’t just protect your employees. They also protect expensive equipment, cut downtime and minimize your liability exposure, all factors with a direct impact on your’ bottom line.
The Anatomy of a Pit Cover
There are many options when it comes to pit safety covers. In order to choose the right pit cover for your application, you need to understand the ins and outs of automated pit covers and the benefits and limitations of each option.
When selecting a material, you need to consider how the unit will be used. Certain conditions require varying material options and sometimes even specific coatings.
Corrosion limitations mean that some chemicals are too aggressive for aluminum, so you’d need to use stainless steel. On the other hand, if you’re dealing with ranging temperatures, stainless steel allows for temperatures up to 200°F, while aluminum holds its strength up to 350°F.
Most aluminum covers perform just fine in chip, oil and coolant applications, but if you’re dealing with the more challenging stuff (like swarf and sand) stainless steel is the better option.
Beyond materials, it gets even more complicated when you start factoring in controls, actuation and guide systems.
At the end of the day, it’s all about your application. That’s why Hennig’s pit safety covers are custom-made to your specifications, because every application is unique.
Who needs pit covers?
AUTO CARE INDUSTRY
When picturing a workplace with an open pit, the auto shop is often the first that comes to mind. Lube pits, vehicle service pits and car inspection pits all need covers to protect not only employees, but also customers who may wander into the shop like lost sheep when dropping off or picking up their vehicles.
Lube pits pose a unique combination of safety hazards. In addition to the obvious hazard created by the open pit, workers have to navigate an environment with oily spills, trip hazards like rags and tools on the floor, and the distractions of vehicles regularly moving through the bay.
Many auto care and lube shops use nets and grates to cover pits. While inexpensive, these solutions have a number of weaknesses. Most notably, they cannot support the weight of a person and are cumbersome to move in and out of place.
If a pit cover is too much trouble for employees to move, they may ignore protocols and leave it off – and then you’ve gained nothing from the investment.
CHEMICAL & WATER TREATMENT INDUSTRIES
Chemical vats and dip tanks pose a host of workplace hazards. Besides the fall risk, these facilities must also contend with the presence of fumes and vapors coming off the tanks.
Depending on the chemicals used, these vapors can significantly impact the air quality of the workplace, posing a long-term threat to worker health.
An automated pit cover over these tanks can keep fumes inside. The covers are easy to open when the vat is in use and close securely when access is no longer needed.
FOOD & BEVERAGE PRODUCTION
Food and beverage plants may employ in-floor tanks for ingredients or wastewater. Pit covers allow access to these tanks when they are needed, but keep ingredients safely sealed away and wastewater securely contained when they are not.
Sectors such as the oil and gas industry often have pits where wastewater is held for treatment before it can be released into waterways or municipal water treatment systems. Wastewater pits are particularly dangerous, as a fall could not only result in injury, but also in chemical exposure or drowning.
Industries such as commercial agriculture also employ wastewater pits, often in the open air. A pit cover mitigates the noxious fumes emitting from these pits and can help prevent overflow during heavy rains or flooding.
Manufacturers of large parts like components for railcars and heavy equipment often rely on in-ground machine tools like pit lathes when milling their products. Pit covers can prevent people from falling into these pits as well as protecting the machines from being damaged by debris that may fall into the machine way.
Unlike vehicle service pits, machine ways rarely need to be accessed. A walk-on cover increases the amount of usable floor surface in the shop while still allowing quick, safe access for machine maintenance.
Why Choose Hennig Safety Pit Covers?
“Hennig from day one, they were active and responding to questions… that helped make the decision as why we needed to go with that team, because we knew it’d be successful.”
Joshua Pavlus, Sr. Project Manager, Ullman Schutte
Hennig pit covers are custom designed and tailored to our customers’ specific applications. Regardless of the size of the area being protected, these covers will easily endure constant use and support the weight of heavy chip loads and personnel.
Even if a minor accident occurs, the costs of maintenance and repair will be minimal due to Hennig’s unique modular design. If a section of the pit cover gets damaged, there is no need to replace the entire unit. You simply need to replace a small section of the cover, minimizing downtime and maintaining the same great level of safety that your employees require.
Purchasing a pit cover from Hennig is a great long-term investment that protects your most important assets at just a fraction of the cost of accidents or OSHA violations.
If you’re looking for an economical solution that will keep your employees on their feet while still maintaining full accessibility for maintenance needs, give your Hennig rep a call to discuss safety pit covers.
Download our Machine Enclosures & Facility Safety brochure to learn more about Hennig safety pit covers.