“I was really excited about starting my new construction job and was very pleased to be assigned to work with a journeyman. I figured I would be able to learn a lot from this guy. As we were preparing the job site there was a hole in the work platform, which I knew should be properly skirted with a guardrail or covered and marked. I offered to do this, but this worker who I was assigned to, said only newbies worry about that sort of stuff and it takes too much time. Needless to say I was shocked and somewhat embarrassed that I had made the suggestion. However, this changed when an hour later that very same worker forgot about the hole and fell through it. He sustained some nasty injuries, but was expected to recover. I guess the newbies should be listened to as well when it comes to safety.”

Guardrail systems are used at different work sites as a fall prevention measure for workers. Construction rules and regulations for a particular work area or region will dictate what type of fall protection system must be implemented. Guardrail systems are the first option in the list of fall protection systems available.

If a worker is subjected to a fall hazard with a vertical drop of 6 feet or more, a guardrail system might be an appropriate method of fall prevention. If the fall hazard can be eliminated by using a railing system, this is the most appropriate option. Guardrails are used in situations where there is a leading edge that can be blocked off, or to block sections of uncovered openings in floor surfaces.

If the work area is comprised of a path that is used for transporting materials or other types of equipment, then a guardrail must be put in place if there is a risk of a fall above 1.2 metres.

Guardrails should also be used if there is a risk of a fall and landing into any type of operating machinery. Rails should also protect workers from fall hazards into water or any other form of liquid.

OSHA outlines specific rules and regulations that must be adhered with regards to proper guardrail use. Top rail height must be 42 inches, plus or minus 3 inches, above the work or walking surface. Midrails must be used when the there exists no wall or parapet wall at least 21 inches high. There should be no openings in the guardrail systems larger than 19 inches. The guardrail should be capable of withstanding, without fail, 200 lbs. of force applied within 2 inches of the top rail in any outward or downward direction at any point along the top edge. Midrails must be capable of withstanding a force of 150 lbs. applied in any direction along the rail.

Guardrails are often used in areas like roofs, where materials might be hoisted. There will probably be an open area needed in the guardrail to allow for the hoisting. This means a chain, gate, or removable guardrail section must be utilized for this area.

Guardrails seem like a simple safety resource but they have the ability to save lives and prevent injury when utilized and installed properly.