Guardrail Fall Protection 101

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Guardrail Fall Protection 101

When passing by a building, like a manufacturing site or construction site, look up at the edge of the building. What people see, or don’t see, signals the appropriate or inappropriate use of a safety railing system. Whether you refer to this product as a guardrail, safety guardrail, or safety rail system, the purpose stays the same. Fall protection matters. 

The world of safety products evolved from a construction industry body belt to rigorous standards and systems for industries outside of construction. 

In the mid-1960s, workers urged for more safety from employers due to the significant workplace fall hazards, like falling from unprotected edges. Construction employers were not held accountable for maintaining a safe work environment before OSHA, even though falls were the primary cause of injury and death. They still are! 

Now fall safety is the top priority for multiple industries. Fall protection must be present when employees work above a working level in these circumstances: 

OSHA Standards

The U.S. Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, creating Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA requires varying industries, mentioned earlier, to meet specific standards. Now as part of the U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA ensures safe working conditions for men and women through a set of enforced standards that stay at the forefront. 

Under OSHA 1926.502(b) and 1910.29(b), some basic guardrail requirements are as follows: 

Top Rail
Mid Rail
Toeboards

These aspects only cover a portion of the standard but provide a fundamental part of choosing a safety rail system. A product that meets OSHA standards and minimizes risk on the job should remain the top priority.

Unprotected roof edges, stairwells, and mezzanines are just a few areas that may require a well-thought-out guardrail system. OSHA requires the same standards, and even additional ones, for any vulnerable space you plan to install fall protection.

Passive Fall Protection

As part of the hierarchy of fall protection, passive fall protection includes safety guardrail. Passive systems provide high levels of safety because of fewer opportunities for human error. Once a team installs a system, the maintenance and safety training pale compared to using a personal fall arrest system.  

Guardrails are present everywhere, from the neighborhood school or the million-dollar construction site. A guardrail system also provides a safety barrier for other internal and external exposure spots of a building or site. Many guardrail systems adjust and fit stairwells, elevator shafts, open floors, and pits. 

Passive fall protection protects many vulnerable areas and provides safety for all people, not just active employees on a job site. The non-dynamic structure means no interaction with it until an actual fall, or the user wants to take it down. Even when disassembling, many guardrails are now collapsible. Choosing a guardrail option means your work area is consistently ready to stop a fall.

Guardrail Choices
OSHA Diagram of Guardrail

Employer preferences lead to the purchasing decision for guardrails. Some prefer a temporary and affordable option like wood. Others prefer a more permanent solution with higher durability. The basic design of a safety railing system is generally the same. 

  • Top rail 
  • Midrail 
  • Toe Board 

Once a guardrail meets compliance, they effectively protect workers. But what about the more interesting parts of choosing a guardrail? 

Material 

Materials range from powder-coated steel, galvanized steel, aluminum steel, and wood railing. The use of wood is cheap and traditional. However, maintenance cost and time serve as one of the biggest cons to using wood, along with cable rail systems. Choosing an option that holds up well against corrosion ensures cost-effectiveness and minimizes replacement costs. The evolution of powder-coated steel systems provides durability and a quality aesthetic.

Color

The traditional safety yellow makes for a safe and standard choice but many businesses, especially ones who choose a permanent solution, want a powder-coated rail that matches the color scheme of the building. The option for different colors allows flexibility and choice for employers.

Permanent or Temporary

Choosing a permanent or temporary solution depends on the needs of a user. How long is the project? Is the system staying up for an extended period? Many companies, including Tie Down, offer guardrail that either installs permanently or temporarily.

One More Time: Compliance

No matter the individual aesthetic choices, choosing an OSHA-compliant guardrail system matters the most. Along with the national standards, many local and state codes require additional safety standards for fall protection systems. Consult OSHA and your local safety codes to make the best decision.

Guardrail by Tie Down

Tie Down offers a diverse range of passive fall protection, specializing in safety guardrail systems. Safety and Roofing by Tie Down value innovation and safety in every product. Offering the largest selection of passive fall protection, we engineer both permanent and temporary solutions. Contact the sales team on how to utilize our products to ensure your workplace safety and health!