Ensuring Your Guardrail Is Mounted Safely
The manufacturer states that the guardrail you purchased will exceed OSHA required loads.
Will it be safe after installation?
Often times we look to the manufacturer of the safety rail to ensure the railing will be strong enough for our application. Whether it be a 200 lbs on the top rail needed by OSHA, or 50 lbs per linear foot necessary for IBC, it is up to the manufacturer to test their product to these specifications.
Does that make it safe?
The actual makeup of the railing is strong enough to withstand the required loads. However, all testing will assume the connection to the substrate/wall is sufficient.
That attachment is the one crucial element to any mounted guardrail that must never be overlooked. It doesn’t matter how strong the metal is on a safety rail if its mounted into rotted wood.
Sure the railing is strong enough, but put any pressure on the hardware connecting it to the ground, and the whole system topples over. This simply negates the guardrails purpose.
So why wouldn’t the manufacturer test a complete system, including the attachment? The simple answer is due to the unpredictable conditions that may be found in the field.
Imagine with me the variances from project to project.
Safety railings are needed on most elevated surfaces. This can range from mezzanines, rooftops, platforms, equipment, etc. Each of these locations are typically made of different materials such as wood, concrete, brick, or even metal.
The conditions of the specific material in question needs to be taken into consideration. The metal could be rusting, wood rotting, or the concrete disintegrating. It’s these conditions that need to be weighed before determining it’s safe to mount.
Every connection requires the appropriate hardware. Once you have determined that the material you are connecting the guardrail into is capable of withstanding the forces implied, you can then choose the fasteners.
Choosing the best fasteners is directly related to the conditions of the materials. Even if you find that the material is deteriorating, you may still be able to mount into it given the correct hardware.
The question remains, how do you determine the surface is safe to mount into and how do I select the right hardware?
Having an OSHA qualified person or engineer on-site to specify all of this for you is the safe option. You need someone visually inspecting your scenario, someone who understands the system being mounted, and can stand behind the choices made for installing the railing.
If that sounds like a lot of work and potentially a lot of costs, that is because it is. Mounting guardrail is excellent for creating dividers and barriers, serious considerations are needed to ensure safety. Nobody wants to find out the system designed to save your life wasn’t installed properly.
Fortunately, if you have a flat roof and need guardrails, there are simpler alternatives. Non-penetrating guardrail like KeeGuard are engineered and will exceed OSHA’s requirements. They don’t have a mounting option, the system is self-sustaining!
Before you install any safety guardrail, ensure that the railing AND your connection are adequate for its intended use.