Best Practices to Guardrails: Setting Standards to Ensure Worker Safety

If you’re looking for information about guardrails, then this is the article for you! We’ll go over height and measurements, spacing between guardrail posts, and more. You’ll also find out what OSHA guidelines are needed to ensure safety in your space. Prepare yourself-it’s time to understand everything there is to know about guardrails!

Handrails vs. Guardrails

A guardrail versus a handrail are terms sometimes used in place of the other. A guardrail is a barricade that runs along the edge of an elevated surface, like balconies or walkways. In comparison, a handrail is any horizontal or slanted railing that you can grab with your hands, such as on escalators or stairways.

Guardrails on the rooftopWhen installed on stairs, balconies, or stairwells, guardrails and handrails are designed to prevent potentially fatal slides. The two are either hanging from walls or placed on or post support propped upon them. What of the various types of guardrails and handrails is perfect for you? Building contractors should install guardrails and handrails optimized in the purpose and design of the building, aside from adhering to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA} requirements.

A guardrail is not for climbing on because it will collapse under your weight quickly, and you are likely going to fall off the edge that it is supposed to protect. It also does not have anything beyond its top surface—no handrails or other ways of getting up onto them as stairs or ladders do. These extra features can let people move around safely without falling over as much (or risking injury).

Guide to the Materials Used in Guardrails

The top three materials utilized for guardrail systems are steel, aluminum, and fiberglass. Steel is the most common type because it’s solid and cost-effective for a wide variety of applications. Aluminum can be lightweight but may not provide the strength needed in some cases. Fiberglass has more elasticity than metal rails which makes them.

Steel guardrails are manufactured to the appropriate height and width for your project. They also come in various finishes, such as powder-coated aluminum that won’t rust when exposed to moisture making them a perfect material even for metal stairs. A benefit is their weight: they can be heavy enough so anyone leaning on them will not fall through if they are sitting on the guardrail.

Non-metallic systems, such as wood or PVC pipe, can also be used for a railing system but are not recommended because they may not provide enough support to keep someone from falling through. These materials will generally require regular maintenance.

Height Requirements Need Highlighting

The height for providing fall protection is 4 feet, with exceptions in construction, scaffolding, and utility work. The top edge height of the guardrail is 42 inches (+/- 3), measured from walking/working level.

Guardrails taller than 44 inches are permitted as long as they do not pose a threat to people of average height. Anything greater than 19 inches can present a safety hazard if the opening is below the top rail. In such cases, OSHA suggests installing additional supports below these rail openings to improve safety.

According to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, guardrails should be positioned no farther than 60” from the surface of the elevated surfaces, such as decking or a staircase. ADA compliance is also a crucial concern in ensuring the safety and accessibility of public buildings or facilities.

OSHA Standards for Guardrails

If you are a professional in construction and need guardrail specifications for building projects, we recommend consulting with an engineer. If this is not possible, there are OSHA regulations available online that cover all necessary information.

OSHA Regulations on GuardrailsIn fact, OSHA 1910.29(b) contains standards that employers must adhere to to ensure that guardrail structures are in place to prevent employees from tumbling to the bottom floor. Here are some highlights of OSHA 1910.29(b):

  • The height of the guardrails should be at least 42 inches above the walking surface.
  • The top edge height may exceed 45 inches, as long as the guardrail system meets all other criteria mentioned in OSHA 1910.29(b).
  • Midrails, screens, mesh, or other things that are between the top of the guardrail and the surface where people walk are installed when no wall or parapet is at least 21 inches (53 cm) high.
  • Crossrail is installed midway between the top edge of the guardrail and the walking surface.
  • Mesh screens and/or lattice framing extends from the walking-working surface to the top rail, as well as along the entire opening between full rail supports;
  • Midrails, screens, mesh, honeycomb frame, or equivalent intermediate element should be capable of resisting a force of at least 150 lbs applied in any downward or outward direction at any point along with the part without failure.
  • When guardrail systems should be used around holes, they should be installed on all unprotected sides or edges of the hole.
  • If you want to pass things through the hole, only two sides of the guardrail system are taken off.
  • In 1910.29(b)(12)(ii), you need to have a guardrail system on all of the sides or edges that are not protected. The hole needs to be closed off with a cover so people won’t fall in.
  • When guardrails are used around places that people go (like ladders), the guardrail system should have openings.

OSHA guidelines are needed to ensure safety in your space. Guardrails should be used in any type of work environment where employees may need protection from accidents or injuries. The safety of your company’s employees is our top priority. Installing guardrails can help protect them from injuries, so it’s essential to consult a professional about the right height and spacing for individual sections or buildings that need to be secured before accidents can happen.