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Fall Protection Guardrail Systems

If guardrails are in use, they must meet specific criteria to be considered safe. The top rail must be at 42 inches above the walking surface (plus or minus 3 inches) and should withstand a force of 200 pounds per 2 inches. Guardrails and their components should be designed to prevent the snagging of clothing or laceration of skin. If a guardrail system is being used to protect a hole, it must cover all sides of the hole. If that hole is an access point, the guardrail must include a gate that does not allow someone to walk directly into the hole.

If there is no wall higher than 21 inches, some intermediary protective device must be installed between the top rail of the guardrail and the walking surface. This device could be a midrail, a screen or mesh, or vertical rails, as follows:

  • Midrails should be midway between the top rail and the walking surface.
  • Screens and meshes must cover the entire opening between the top rail and the walking surface.
  • Vertical rails or other intermediaries must be no more than 19 inches apart and must be able to withstand a force of 150 pounds per 2 inches.

To learn more about Fall Protection visit our OSHA Construction Fall Protection Online Training & Certification Course web page.

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