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Don’t Fall off the Edge: Roles of Guardrail, Handrail or Safety Railing Systems in Fall Protection
Any rail system is intended to prevent falls from an upper level to a lower level from occurring in the industrial workplace. It can be a single or double rail, or it may have solid panels with a space in the center for people to walk through.
Definitions and Differentiating the Safety Railing Terminologies
The guardrail is typically made of metal and extends along any edge where people could fall off, like a mezzanine, industrial catwalks, rooftops, balconies, or any work platform. Often a guardrail system is composed of a top rail and a midrail because OSHA requirements mandate that these fall prevention mechanisms withstand at least 200 pounds of force. Guardrail designs without midrails can replace them with intermediate vertical members (balusters), screens, or meshes as supporting components. Architects could also bring chains or gates into play in the guardrail design, provided that these provide a comparable layer of safety against accidental falls.
A stair railing system is often found on staircases and ramps that lead down from one level to another. They also exist at the bottom of flights of stairs as well as inside buildings and factories. As stair railing height has become a crucial factor, these structures act as barriers along open or exposed sides of stairs designed against accidental falls when workers use the stairs.
While a handrail can also be a part of a stair rail system as it is often listed in the names of stair parts, it emphasizes the keyword ‘hand,’ meaning it should provide handhold or grip support. Any stair that is particularly steep or has more than four steps without any handrail should be avoided.
Some safety railing systems are designed to be permanent fixtures, while others may be removable. When a handrail is present on any pedestrian route (whether inside or outside the building), it must comply with ANSI/ASSP 1264.1-2017 Standard for Safety Handrails and Guards published by the American National Standards Institute. This standard specifies that the guard rail system should include a top rail, intermediate rail (midrail), or similar. The top rail must be smooth across its length, and the height should be 42 inches (1.1 meters).
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) decrees that handrail height should be between 36 to 38 inches in height on stair rail systems, while the top rail can reach up to 42 inches. The separate top rail and handrail height means that top rails cannot necessarily be the handrail.
As there are several codes from different entities, most people could not follow which guidelines they should support. Therefore, here is a constructive comparison of guardrails vs. handrails. At the same time, you can also browse through the IBC vs. OSHA stair codes to help you navigate handrail and guardrail guidelines in the work environment.
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Our cost effective railings and handrails are constructed with a prefabricated approach. We utilize state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques, including robotic welding, to ensure accurate tolerances and consistent quality. Our handrails are comparable with custom solutions at a third of the cost.
Standard OSHA Handrails
Taking a standard approach to popular sizes of handrails, we can help make your project move fast and run smooth.
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