OSHA Compliant Guardrail: Protecting What Matters

By MHI Industry Group ProGMA

In 2017, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released its final rule on Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems. The ruling was intended to help update regulations to meet advancements in best practices, but the 513-page document was… confusing, to say the least. Given the critical role that guardrail plays in helping warehouses and distribution centers achieve compliance with this regulation, we thought we’d help you out and dig into the ruling and explain how you can comply with the regulations with essential protective equipment.

To begin, OSHA requires that a fall protection system be installed on any walking or working surface that is 4ft+ above a lower level. One of the most common types of fall protection equipment used for this is guardrail. To be considered compliant with OSHA’s regulations, the guardrail must stand 42 inches (± 3 in) above the working or walking surface. The guardrail needs to have intermediate rail located at 21 inches (or about halfway up) to prevent workers from slipping between the top rail and the floor. If there’s no intermediate rail, screens or mesh must be installed from floor to top rail.

Guardrails must be free of components that can cause punctures and scratches or snag clothing and be able to withstand a 200-pound concentrated load along the top rail. Intermediate rails are required to carry a 150-pound concentrated load. Additionally, any guardrail system that is protecting a ledge with an object fall risk (i.e. where an object could fall off the ledge and hit something or someone) is required to have 3.5-inch toe board installed along the base.

A good way to get started with OSHA compliance is with modular guardrail systems, one of the most versatile type of guardrail available. Suitable for a variety of applications, the pipe and fitting construction is durable enough to withstand the demands of the most rugged environment and is great for open shafts, roof edges, mezzanines, work platforms, loading docks catwalks, and more. Designed to be lightweight and easy to install, the highly versatile nature of modular systems can be customized to a facility’s exact needs and specifications. Built mostly off-site with interchangeable rail components, the ease with which these protective systems can be installed ensures minimal disruption to a facility’s daily operations.

Companies looking to enhance their facility’s safety with guarding solutions should consider partnering with an experienced material handling solutions provider like the members of ProGMA. Their knowledge can help companies protect the things that matter most – learn more at mhi.org/progma.