Guard Rails Tips

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When do I need a heavy duty rail?

Heavy Duty Rail

If you have heavy equipment operating in your dock, warehouse, or other operation, it's important to install guard rail that can withstand the impact from such heavy machines. A lightweight aluminum rail is good for an early warning, but if you are trying to physically protect load bearing beams, pillars, or other impact-sensitive areas, you'll need a guardrail made of heavy steel. Some rails are rated to withstand a 10,000 pound impact (at low mph). This is the kind of guard rail you want to have installed in such critical areas. When shopping for replacement rail or adding new sections of guard rail to your facility, remember that it's not just the existence of a rail that's important, it's how much that rail can withstand that counts.

Chains or Rails?

Chains Or Rails?

OSHA has specific guidelines that dictate how and when guard rails may be used. Did you know that in some instances, a guard chain is not enough? In fall prevention systems, a middle rail is required to prevent people from falling into skylights, roof hatches, and other “open hole” hazards. There are chain systems now available that proved a chain guard as well as a middle rail setup, and these do comply with recent interpretations of OSHA regulations. You may have additional local compliance codes that complicate the use of safety chains in this fashion, so check with your state building codes to learn whether safety chains with the middle rail may replace an actual guard rail in open-hole situations.

How can I use structural guard rails indoors?

Structural Guard Rails-A Wide Variety of Applications

The structural guard rail is an indoor/outdoor rail used to protect both people and equipment. These portable C-channel rails are eight pounds per foot and can be set up and taken down in a matter of moments. This type of guard rail is also good for long term construction projects or renovations where you may have open pits, manholes, or other "long-term temporary" falling hazards you wish to protect.

These rails can also be used to block access to areas where temporary overhead hazards are located, but unseen to passersby. Prices on this type of guard rail start at $50, and the guard rail can be used again and again. This is an investment with definite long-term benefits in terms of safety and versatility,

What should I do about my high traffic areas outside the warehouse or office?

Building Protection With Galvanized Guard Rail

It's an unfortunate fact of life; drivers lose control of their vehicles due to lack of attention, snow or ice, poor visibility and other factors. If your building is in a high-traffic area, you may wish to install a galvanized guard rail to protect your workers and the structure of the office or warehouse.

An Indoor/outdoor galavinized guard rail comes with pre-drilled mounting holes so you can sink optional anchor bolts into concrete. Some use a galvanized guard rail simply to direct traffic. If you are looking for an added layer of protection from vehicles, most likely you will need to mount the rail into the concrete for maximum effectiveness.

You will need a masonry bit to properly anchor the galvanized guard rail into the concrete using the optional anchoring. If you are installing your guard rail in a high-traffic area, you may wish to place illumination near the newly installed galvanized guard rail to make it plainly visible at night, especially to drivers who may not be used to your new rail set up.

What are some of the possible uses of guard rails besides simply marking off where the road ends and the ditch begins?

Guard Rails--Good For More Than Highway Driving

Most people associate guard rails with highway driving, but there are many instances where you may need the added safety of guard rails. Some examples include large warehouses with lots of forklift traffic, busy docks and loading areas, or any number of places where foot traffic and motorized traffic can become a hazardous combination.

Guard rails can be installed inside warehouses to regulate forklift traffic to approved areas, and also act as an additional visual reminder to pedestrians that there is heavy equipment operating nearby.

You can protect the corners of the buildings as well, and some guard rails are designed with curves to prevent vehicles from coming within a specified distance of the area cordoned off with the rail. The uses are practically endless.

What's a rack guard?

A Different Type of Guard Rail

Rack guards are a different kind of guard rail. These aren't built to control traffic, but designed instead to protect the row ends of racks.

If you have forklifts, bobcats or other traffic in the area, you'll want to have some additional protection from an accidental impact. A forklift that backs into the rack-type guard rail will probably cause some cosmetic damage to guard rail and/or machine, but the rack itself will most likely be unaffected.

It is not wise to use the rack guard to shore up an unstable rack or one that needs maintenance. In spite of sites you may encounter where the rail is practically flush with the rack, the guard rail is only meant to protect the equipment, not add structural support.

Are all safety guard rails created equal in the eyes of OSHA?

Safety Guard Rail Kits and OSHA

Searching for Safety guard rail? Make sure you find safety guard rail products that are labeled as meeting OSHA standards and you can sleep better at night knowing in advance that they will pass muster.

There are safety guard rail models with and without toeboards for applications calling for each type according to regulation. Double check your OSHA standards to make sure you are in the know regarding which model you need for which application. Some protective safety guard rail conditions require the toeboard, and some require the absence of one.

In addition to preventing accidents, safety guard rail kits, with concrete-mountable accessories, make excellent walkways for areas where you need to control or limit foot traffic to avoid hazardous situations. If you give guided tours of your facility or work area, these walkways are perfect for controlling outsider access to critical areas. Keep "civilians" out of harm's way by giving them no other choice but to follow your safety guard rail pathways.

Can I use a crowd control barrier as a more inexpensive solution to safety guard rails?

"Non Safety" Guard Rails

There are some products which are sold along side safety guard rail solutions that seem to do the same thing, but without anchoring or permanent mounting. The most obvious difference here is that these rail systems are not safety rated and are used for crowd control purposes only.

A crowd control interlocking barrier or stainless steel railing system can be effective for keeping people in the areas where they are 'supposed' to be. Any safety application, including fall prevention or assisted stair climbing, must be addressed using the proper safety guard rail.

The "non-safety" barriers are perfect when used for the functions which they were designed to serve. Much like misusing crane equipment, serious repercussions can result in misapplying these barriers in a safety capacity. When in doubt, consult OSHA guidelines for the final say.

Can I use different kinds of guard railing interchangeably in my shop?

The Right Rail For the Right Circumstances

Did you know that OSHA has specific regulations which govern situations like open holes in workspace flooring and/or falling hazards? It's important to use the correct type of guard railing specified in OSHA rules for each particular hazard.

A stairway guard railing is a particular type, just as the guard railing for open-floor repair work, hatchways and other potentially hazardous situations in the work place. It's important to double check with OSHA regulations to make sure the application you are considering for a particular type of guard railing is applicable to the circumstances. You may find a variety of helpful publications at the OSHA website:

How should I anchor my new guard rail?

Anchoring Your Guard Rail

When installing floor-anchored guard rails, you'll be required to drill holes into your concrete floor. For this you will need a drill with a masonry bit. Don't waste your time using anything else, as concrete can dull a titanium twist bit fairly quickly. The masonry bit was designed for the job. When you drill your bolt holes, make sure to use a bit roughly the same size as the anchor bolt, and be sure to drill holes as deep as the bolts are long for maximum effectiveness. When you have anchored the rail and completed the assembly, be sure to run through the entire guard rail from beginning to end to insure all the bolts are tight; you may need to adjust some of the first few bolts you installed.

Do I need a guard rail in my construction project?

Do I Need A Guard Rail In My Construction Project?

OSHA dictates many uses for guard rails, but one that particularly applies to construction projects is 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(14). This regulation demands the use of guard rails any time a worker on, above, or near a wall opening six feet or higher from “lower levels”. Guardrails are actually one option of several; the others include “fall arrest systems” and safety nets. The guardrail is a particularly useful accessory here because it provides a large, early warning that there is an opening that can be hazardous. Depending on how a safety net system is used, the workers may or may not be able to stand close to the edge of the opening. If workers are needed that close to the edge, the net system makes sense, but if they aren't required to be so close, a guardrail system could be the less expensive option.

Do guard rails near lifts pose a pinch hazard?

Moving Guard Rails And Stationary Guard Rails

One potential source of liability with guard rails lies with the proximity of stationary guard rails to moving rails attached to lifts, vehicles, and other powered equipment. If you are installing new guard rails in a warehouse, dock, or other area where powered equipment operates, make sure all clearances and safe working area issues are respected. Beware of installing guard rails that extend to the height that can endanger an elbow sticking out of a golf cart on a blind turn, or other such hidden dangers. If you aren't sure, it's best to do a ride-along in commonly operated vehicles in your shop in the areas where you plan to install new guard rails. You'll learn a lot about where these hidden dangers lie, and you can take steps to avoid them.

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Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.