Debris chutes are valuable pieces of a construction site. Removing debris from multi-level construction sites can be time-consuming and straining. To prevent cluttering the workspace and dragging waste materials down stairs or elevators, debris chutes allow workers to quickly dispose of excess materials and trash. As with any construction equipment, employees should consider and prepare for various safety hazards when using debris chutes to prevent workplace injuries. 

If your employees will need to use a debris chute on the construction site, be sure to understand all Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements and our safety tips to ensure you’re in compliance. 

What Is a Debris Chute?

Debris chutes allow workers on rooftops or other elevated construction sites to safely and conveniently remove debris and waste from the work area. As trash and construction materials build up and take up space, construction workers need a quick way to safely dispose of these materials. Debris chutes are installed on building exteriors so workers can slide waste down the chute and into a dumpster or waste bin.

Safety Tips for Trash and Debris Chute Use

Even though construction debris chutes offer a safer way of removing materials from a job site, safety around the chute is still crucial. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind while using trash chutes:

  • Landing spot: As debris slides down the chute, some materials may come flying out with force at high speeds. This can create a potentially dangerous situation at the bottom of the chute where the waste lands. To prevent injuries, a perimeter around the landing space should be determined, and workers should keep their distance from the landing spot. 
  • Support: Smaller chutes can often attach directly to the side of a building. Larger chutes typically require a frame for support against the building. Be sure to provide proper chute support as necessary, and use a winch or other type of lifting device to help prevent injury while transporting a chute to high levels. 
  • Gateways: Some waste chute designs feature additional gateways, or hoppers, which are openings in the chute at each level of a building. Gateways allow workers to remove waste and debris from any floor instead of moving everything to one spot. If you’re using a chute with additional gateways, ensure there are gates or flaps over the openings below the top level. This feature prevents debris from flying out of the chute on lower levels as it slides down. 
  • Guard rails: Though we’ll discuss specifics below, OSHA requires guard rails to be secured around the chute’s openings. Guard rails help prevent workers from injuring themselves or falling into the chute. While this is less of a concern with smaller chutes because the openings are smaller, grown men can easily fit inside some of the largest construction trash chutes.
  • Proper fit: A chute’s various sections need to be tight fitting. A proper fit between sections helps provide stability and prevent wear and tear on the chute as debris slides down. Without a tight fit, you run the risk of the chute collapsing. Additionally, loose-fitting sections can allow more dust to escape as materials travel through. 

Safety is crucial during any construction operation and around all construction equipment, and construction site waste chutes are no different. Practice these safety tips when working around debris chutes.

OSHA Debris Chute Requirements

OSHA sets safety standards to protect workers while on the job. Businesses are required to abide by any applicable OSHA standards to ensure the health and safety of their employees. Because there are safety risks surrounding debris chutes, OSHA has some requirements regarding how they are built, used and secured. Here are a few examples of OSHA debris chute regulations:

  • Trash chutes are required when dropping debris from roofs or levels higher than 20 feet in the air. 
  • To ensure safety for all workers around the construction site, chutes are required to be secured to the building.
  • Chute gateways must be shorter than 48 inches high, and any gateways below the top level are required to stay closed when not in use.
  • When workers aren’t on-site, the landing area surrounding the bottom of the chute is required to be closed off.
  • At any opening in the chute, like a gateway, a sturdy 42-inch-high guard rail is required to be secured to the floor and walls surrounding the opening. 
  • Additionally, if there is space between the floor and the chute at openings, these open spaces should be securely covered.
  • Because the materials being discarded through debris chutes can be heavy and slide down the chute with force, all debris chutes must be designed with strong materials to withstand any impact from waste materials. 

Following OSHA guidelines keeps businesses in compliance with the standards while also ensuring they’re taking the necessary precautions to keep their employees safe on the job. 

Overview of Scaffolding and Debris Chute Safety

In some cases, attaching the debris chute directly to the building isn’t ideal. For example, if work is being done on the roof of a residential building that’s currently in use, attaching the debris chute to the building may not be an option for the construction team. To avoid attaching the chute to the side of a building, scaffolding can be used to support the chute. Scaffolding can provide sturdy anchorage points for chutes while still offering easy access to various levels of the building. 

When using scaffolding for debris chute support, keep these OSHA scaffolding standards in mind:

  • Avoid allowing debris to accumulate on the scaffolding platforms.
  • Use slip-resistant treads on all steps and landings.
  • Use debris nets to prevent falling objects from injuring workers below the openings in a debris chute.

Learn More About Our Debris Chutes and Safety Classes

Debris chutes are a crucial aspect of elevated job site safety and efficiency. At International Equipment, we have the construction site equipment necessary to keep your jobs running smoothly and safely. With our debris chute rental services and products, our experienced team will help you with consultations, permit acquisition, installation, disassembly, material pickup and more, all while adhering to the strictest safety standards. 

Because safety is so important to us as a company, we even offer safety training services so you can be sure everyone on your site is on the same page. To learn more about our products and services, contact us today.