September 18, 2014

Standards for Guardrail and Handrail Systems

OSHA Guardrail Requirements

When it comes to guardrails and handrails there are certain standards that must be applied. OSHA has a number of guardrail requirements. The consequences of ignoring OSHA handrail standards or guardrail requirements can be serious. Without proper enforcement of a roof safety rail, employees working on roofs face the risk of injuries or even deaths following a fall.

When is a guardrail required?

According to OSHA guardrail requirements, a railing is required when working at 4 feet or more. 

OSHA 1910.23(c)(1) states that “every open-sided floor or platform 4 feet or more above adjacent floor or ground level shall be guarded by a standard railing (or the equivalent as specified in paragraph (e)(3) of this section) on all open sides except where there is entrance to a ramp, stairway, or fixed ladder. The railing shall be provided with a toeboard wherever, beneath the open sides, persons can pass, there is moving machinery, or there is equipment with which falling materials could create a hazard.”

Standards for guardrails exist to ensure that rails are installed properly to the appropriate height for worker safety. The guardrail system is used to prevent an employee from falling to a level or the ground below. A guardrail system is defined as “a barrier erected to prevent employees from falling to lower levels”. The OSHA standard for guardrail height is 42 inches. Guardrail requirements also include a top rail, intermediate rail and posts.

OSHA Handrail Standards

A handrail by definition is, “a horizontal or sloping rail intended for grasping by the hand for guidance or support”. 

When is a handrail required by OSHA for stairs?

Handrails are required on all stairs that have three steps or more or ramps with a rise of 6 inches and above. OSHA handrail standards state that the height of handrails should not be more than 37 inches or less than 30 inches from the upper surface of the handrail to the surface of the tread. OSHA 1910.23(d)(1)states: “Every flight of stairs having four or more risers shall be equipped with standard stair railings or standard handrails as specified in paragraphs (d)(1)(i) through (v) of this section.”

OSHA Standard Guardrail Height

The height of guardrails is a critical component of OSHA guardrail requirements. If not installed at the right height, workers may not have an appropriate barrier in the case of a fall. OSHA’s standards for guardrails are designed to make sure that rooftop workers have the best available protection against danger. 

OSHA 1910.23(e)(1): “A standard railing shall consist of top rail, intermediate rail, and posts, and shall have a vertical height of 42 inches nominal from upper surface of top rail to floor, platform, runway, or ramp level. The top rail shall be smooth-surfaced throughout the length of the railing. The intermediate rail shall be approximately halfway between the top rail and the floor, platform, runway, or ramp. The ends of the rails shall not overhang the terminal posts except where such overhang does not constitute a projection hazard.”

At W.S. Safety Technologies, we carry Kwik-Rail, which is a metal safety handrail system, and Bluewater SafetyRail 2000 guardrail systems. Both are easy to assemble and install. W.S. Safety is equipped to handle all of your fall protection safety needs, please contact us today.

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