It’s no secret that working at heights comes with numerous safety risks that can lead to serious injuries and even death. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 805 fall-related worker deaths in 2020 alone. This number is particularly high in occupations that require individuals to work on raised surfaces like roofs — studies show that falls account for 20% of worker fatalities in the construction industry and 84% of roofing industry deaths.
There are many causes of work-related falls, such as loss of balance, moving supports, tripping, surface breakage and lost grip.
With so many hazards, injuries and fatalities related to falling from elevated surfaces, it’s crucial to have the proper measures in place to prevent these falls from occurring and ultimately protect your workers from harm. Guardrails have proven to be excellent resources for reducing the number of fall-related accidents on the job site. These fall protection solutions are valuable in a wide range of use cases and provide numerous benefits to laborers.
Why Guardrails Are Important
Guardrails are stationary systems that protect individuals at heights by operating as a safety barrier where exposure to fall hazards cannot be eliminated. These solutions are commonly used on roofs, stairwells and platforms and are designed with the height, strength, spacing, length and proximity necessary for preventing falls.
Guardrails are essential in a wide array of job sites, such as construction sites, warehouses, shipping facilities and any workplace with an accessible rooftop. These fixed protection systems deliver many vital functions and advantages to companies and workers alike.
First and foremost, guardrails are crucial in preventing workers from falling at height. These structures provide the protections necessary for minimizing the risks of falls, reducing workplace injuries and preventing worker deaths.
Guardrails are engineered with many elements in mind to ensure optimal fall protection, such as:
- Height: Guardrails must reach high enough to prevent workers from falling over the tops of them.
- Strength: Guardrails are built strong enough to withstand the force of one or more people leaning or pushing up against them, along with any tools and materials that may collide with the rails.
- Spacing: Rooftop safety systems have evenly spaced posts that are close enough together to prevent individuals from falling in between them. This rule applies to guardrails with horizontal or vertical posts.
- Proximity: All guardrails are positioned as close to the open edge of a platform as possible to provide the highest level of protection.
- Length: Guardrails extend along the full length of any unprotected or open edge to minimize fall exposure.
- Materials: Rail structures comprise durable materials like wood and metal and provide a smooth, nonabrasive surface that does not snag on clothing or cut the skin.
In addition to keeping workers safe, guardrails also help companies comply with federal safety regulations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that workplaces provide fall protection at elevations of 4 feet in general industry workplaces and 6 feet in the construction industry. Fall protection is also required for individuals working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of height.
OSHA has put various rules in place that specifically call for the use of guardrails. Employers must adhere to all of the following regulations to prevent fall-related accidents and injuries:
- Guard any floor hole into which workers could fall by using a railing and toe-board or floor hole cover.
- Use guardrails and toe-boards over dangerous machines and components.
- Install guardrails and toe-boards over every elevated, open-sided floor, platform or runway.
While compliance with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) guidelines isn’t required by law, adhering to these standards is strongly encouraged, as they are widely recognized as the minimum requirement for safety.
Guardrails help organizations comply with the ANSI/ASSP Z359.1-2020 Fall Protection Code, which addresses processes used to protect workers at height in managed fall protection programs, such as program management, training, equipment, system design and component and system specifications. Using guardrails to comply with ANSI standards alongside OSHA regulations results in maximum fall protection and worker safety.
No Training Requirements
Various forms of fall protection require extensive training and preparation to use properly, such as lanyards, safety harnesses, rope grabs and fall restriction systems. Guardrails eliminate the need for employee training while still providing maximum protection. These fall prevention solutions don’t require any specific knowledge or practice to use — once they’re installed, they’re ready to go. Because companies don’t have to train their employees to use guardrails, they can save time and money.
The guardrail installation process is fast and easy, causing minimal downtime for your company. With the right fall protection system provider, you can begin using your guardrails in as little as a few days after purchase.
Some of the most reliable and efficient companies can deliver components in as little as one to two days with minimum lead times and easy handling. And because guardrail systems come with all the parts and hardware needed for assembly, your solutions can be assembled in only a few hours. In addition, guardrail installation typically requires only two installers, saving you on labor costs and letting you put that money toward other areas of your business.
Professionally installed roof guardrail systems require minimal maintenance, meaning once your structures have been installed, your work is essentially done. All you have to do is deliver annual maintenance checks to ensure your rails remain safe and functional. OSHA instructs that any damaged or broken equipment is reported and removed promptly.
There are various types of guardrails to choose from when equipping your roof with a fall protection system, enabling you to select a structure that best suits your application and safety needs. Guardrails are available in numerous styles and configurations and often include additional components like toe-boards, walkways, mats and warning systems. You can also purchase them in various colors and finishes, whether you’re looking for safety yellow or a custom shade.
Different Uses for Different Guardrails
While all guardrails will do their part to protect your workers from harm, it’s important to know which systems will offer the highest level of protection for your specific needs and requirements.
Every guardrail type is designed for a different use case. You can determine which guardrail product is your ideal fit by evaluating the characteristics and applications of each.
When to Use Internal Wall Mount Guardrails
Internal wall mounts provide maximum levels of passive safety in internal wall mount applications. These guardrails are designed to deliver fall protection around the roof perimeter and safeguard any equipment, machinery or unprotected fall edges positioned on the rooftop. They are modular systems that mount to the internal sides of parapet walls with tight tolerances. Internal wall mounts are suitable for permanent applications and feature discreet attachments that are not visible from the ground.
KATTGUARD™ GR31 Internal Wall Mount Guardrails are lightweight structures comprising high-tensile aluminum. These modular systems facilitate infinite configurations and can be customized to suit your specific site and application requirements. Their posts are designed to be positioned a maximum of 8 feet on center and facilitate fast and simple installation. These guardrails come in a standard mill finish but are available in custom colors, such as yellow, black, bronze and almond. KATTGUARD GR31 internal wall mounts are OSHA compliant.
When to Use Metal Roof Mount Guardrails
If you’re looking to install guardrails on a metal roof, metal roof mount systems are your ideal solution. Metal roof mount guardrails are designed specifically for installation on metal roofs, including standing seam and R panel systems. You can use these passive forms of fall protection around the perimeter of your rooftop, equipment or open edges.
Metal roof mounts are suitable for three primary roof types:
- Standing seam: These guardrails attach directly to standing seam metal rooftop profiles to ensure optimal security.
- Corrugated metal: Corrugated metal roofs often pose engineering challenges due to their unique profiles. Metal roof mounts adhere directly to the folds of corrugated roofs, distributing the force on the railing over a wide area to ensure high functionality and safety.
- R panel: R panel roofs are much like corrugated metal roofs, only they comprise panels with raised ribs and flat areas in between. Metal roof mount guardrails are ideal for these complex roof configurations.
You can attach the KATTGUARD™ GR32 Metal Roof Mount Guardrail to metal roofs by either fastening it down onto the metal deck with self-sealing rivets or attaching it to the standing seam profile with non-penetrating clamps. These OSHA-compliant guardrail systems are simple to install and highly customizable, with colors like mill and safety yellow finishes.
When to Use External Wall Mount Guardrails
External guardrails are designed specifically for external wall mount applications. Like their internal structure counterparts, these guardrails deliver passive safety around the roof’s edge or dangerous equipment. External wall mounts are suitable for permanent applications, provide full-perimeter fall protection and facilitate water-tight installation with dual-plate mounting systems.
You can purchase the KATTGUARD™ GR33 External Wall Mount Guardrail in a comprehensive kit to ensure you have all the components you need to facilitate seamless installation. Simply select the rail lengths, corner pieces, wall terminations and ladder connection hardware you need for your unique application. These external wall mounts are lightweight, comprise high-tensile aluminum and are OSHA compliant. You can purchase these products in yellow, mill, almond, bronze, black or custom color finishes.
When to Use Non-Penetrating Guardrails
Non-penetrating guardrails are free-standing fall prevention solutions that use weighted bases and counterbalances to sit atop the roof without penetrating its surface. These anchored structures are ideal for membrane and built-up roof systems and useful for delivering protection for areas of frequent traffic or work sites located near fall hazards.
Because non-penetrating guardrails do not require drilling or bolting, they prevent leaks, water pooling and other potential hazards that can result from holes. They also boast faster and easier installations than other guardrail configurations and can be removed and transferred, making them highly adaptable to changing environments.
Non-penetrating guardrails comply with OSHA standards and are available in numerous configurations, including:
- Architectural: These non-penetrating guardrails curve away from the roof’s edge as not to distract from the building’s overall appearance. If you’re focused on maintaining your facility’s visual appeal, non-penetrating architectural guardrails are your ideal solution.
- Standing seam: Standing seam guardrails feature roof clamps that allow users to install them on various standing seam rooftops.
- Collapsible: Collapsible guardrails comprise one-way pivot systems that enable users to fold and lower the rails when they’re not in use to maintain a building’s aesthetic appearance.
The KATTGUARD™ GR34 Non-Penetrating Guardrail system delivers optimal passive protection using plastic-coated steel-weighted bases positioned atop the roofing membrane, which create an OSHA-compliant free-standing system. This guardrail system features bases and posts that you can place a maximum of 10 feet on center. You can purchase this guardrail system in specialized kits or customize it to fit your individual requirements.
When to Use Surface Mount Guardrails
Surface mount guardrails use double-point stud plates to mount guardrail hardware to the roof’s substrate layer, resulting in a tight and secure hold that can withstand harsh environmental conditions, such as wind, rain, snow and sleet. These guardrail systems are also useful for sloped rooftop applications where ice buildup, wind and snow loads are standard. If your building is in an area frequently subject to inclement weather and requires optimal durability, surface mount guardrails will benefit you immensely.
The KATTGUARD™ GR36 Surface Mount Guardrail comprises 6106-T6 aluminum and features stainless steel hardware and self-tapping screws. This highly customizable safety guardrail is a modular system that accommodates countless configurations with spacing up to 10 feet between posts. The KATTGUARD GR36 is available in custom color options, as well as safety yellow and mill finishes.
Invest in OSHA-Compliant Guardrails at FIXFAST USA Today
If you require a robust and reliable guardrail and have a specific fall protection application in mind, you can find exactly what you need at FIXFAST USA. We are a family-owned company that’s offered high-quality rooftop safety products for over 45 years, doing everything we can to go above and beyond for our customers. All of our fall protection solutions provide compliant roof protection based on OSHA regulations, offering maximum safety with minimum fuss.
Our experienced team is continuously working to improve our products and processes to stay on top of industry standards. When you come to us, you can expect easy delivery and minimum lead times. Most importantly, we work to provide customers with great products, great service, a great team and a great experience.