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Going Down: The Basics of Chute Safety

By: Karl Weisser

April 2016

Trash chutes are one of the most commonly used apparatuses on construction sites. According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration),  whenever materials are dropped more than 20 feet to any point lying outside of the exterior of the walls, a trash chute shall be used. These are typically installed and utilized on multi-level construction sites and roofs where it is difficult and hazardous for the employees handling the trash and debris. By understanding the basics of installing and utilizing trash chutes safely, employers are able to keep everyone safe inside and outside of the building.

A few common workplace injuries resulting from trash cutes include falling through openings from unprotected sides or edges and accidents caused by falling debris. Proper installation of trash chutes is crucial in ensuring the safety of all workers onsite. Like any other equipment used on a construction site, the manufacturer’s guidelines and recommendations have to be followed to ensure proper set up and installation. There are two different types of chutes that can be used on a construction site, short chutes and large chute. Short chutes typically have a small diameter and are light enough to be set up against the side of the building, while large chutes may have to be supported by a secondary frame to withstand the total amount of weight for both the trash and pieces of equipment. Large chutes can weigh a significant amount and could cause back strains and injuries. In these circumstances a manual or automatic winch would need to be used in the installation phase to help reduce the amount of strain put on an employee.

In addition to installing an adequate trash chute for a building, one important aspect that should be considered in the preparation stage is making sure all the chutes are tight fitted. By attempting to create a seamless chute, it will not only cut down the dust escaping from the trash but will also help support the chute against high gusts of winds and when large trash loads are dumped in. In accordance with OSHA’s guidelines, all sections of the chute, at an angle of more than 45 degrees from the horizontal shall be entirely closed.

There are a few other important elements that must be considered when utilizing a trash chute according to OSHA, a proper guardrail system, chute openings, and ground control. Similar to other adequate guardrail systems, any chute opening shall be protected by a guardrail system. The system should be secured and able to withstand at least 200 pounds of outward and downward force and approximately 42 inches above the walking/working surface, on which to dump the materials. Any spaces between the chute and the edge of openings in the floors shall be completely covered and able to withstand twice the intended load. Another essential piece of the guardrail that needs to be incorporated is a toeboard or bumper, which is not less than 4 inches thick and at least 6 inches high. Ground controls, one of the most important aspects of using a trash chute, shall be set up on the lower levels to protect pedestrians and other workers. A few different options pertaining to ground controls include, but are not limited to, barricade tape (caution and/or danger), high visibility rope or warning lines, and guardrail systems. Warning signs should be posted at each level of the building where the chute passes by and on the ground level, in multiple areas, to alert others of the hazards of falling materials.

Construction trash chutes can remove obstacles and significantly speed up the cleaning process on multiple levels of a building and on roofs. By creating a fast and efficient way of removing trash and debris, chutes can help create a safer and more efficient workplace. If companies decide to utilize chutes, it should be incorporated in the safety planning and logistics prior to beginning work. 



Caplan, J. (2013). Safety Tips For Installing And Using Construction Trash Chutes. Retrieved from http://www.safety.com/blogs/jonathancaplan/safety-tips-installing-and-using-construction-trash-chutes
Bird Ladder and Equipment Co., Inc. (2014_. Maintaining Workplace Safety with Construction Trash Chutes. Retrieved from http://birdladderandscaffoldingsafety.blogspot.com/2014/12/maintaining-workplace-safety-with.html


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