Temporary Construction Guardrail Buyer's Guide
Personal fall arrest systems seem to get all the attention in discussions revolving around fall protection, but, as discussed in a previous article, harnesses and lanyards should be a last line of defense since they are considered personal protective equipment. Short of eliminating the fall hazard (which often isn’t possible), engineering controls are the next best method. Now, while the term “Engineering Controls” may make the concept seem daunting, engineering controls can be something as simple as setting up railings.
Railings are a great option for construction sites where things change on a daily basis. Some sites will opt to have their carpenters build the rails from scratch, but products exist that can save you money in labor as well as in materials since they can be moved and reused from job to job. How, though, do you determine which ones are right for your project?
First, understand that all engineered rail systems you can purchase on the market from a reputable source are designed to meet OSHA requirements. Assemble them properly, inspect, and maintain them and no further engineering is required. Second, determine where they’ll need to be placed. Safety rail systems come in a variety of different types so that you can most likely find the right product for your situation.
Some systems are designed to rest directly on your flat roof, floor or other surface . These systems work with a set of bases that the rails can be dropped into (base-mounted systems are usually designed with fully constructed rails). The bases themselves are constructed so that they are not damaging the surface of the roof (unless they are being mishandled). One concern when it comes to base-mounted systems is that they may take away your ability to work right to the edge without removing them. If you have to do this, even momentarily, you are going to need an alternate means of fall protection while the rail isn’t in place.
Other systems may clamp to your parapet or to your concrete slab. These will give you maximum work area because there are no bases to deal with. Instead, these systems are anchored to the very perimeter of the building with different types of clamps. They even have similar rail systems for residential roofs . Unlike the base-mounted systems, the clamped systems often require the installer to use their own 2x4s to make the rails. The posts - which are clamped to the building – have guides or channels for your boards to run through.
Working on a wooden structure? Rail systems exist that were designed just for that purpose such as metal construction guardrail systems or metal gusset guardrail systems . Nail these brackets right to the side of the wooden structure or the top or side of a wooden substrate, insert the posts and rails and you’re good to go. If that wooden structure happens to have a sloped roof and the residential roof under-eave clamps would be too far away from where the work is taking place, then you can look into temporary guardrail that attaches to the roof itself (remember, rails must be able to withstand 200 lbs. of force in a downward and outward direction – if you were to slide down a roof before striking the rail, your momentum could build up enough force to break through the protection. The closer to you the rails are, the safer your work).
Considering all of this, even if you were to decide that constructing your temporary rails with 2x4s was the way you wanted to go, you could still purchase mounting boots that you could re-use from job to job. These are made of a sturdy plastic and allow you to quickly mount your boards. Many provide a channel for easy installation of toe boards.
The options are varied, but that’s great because it means you should be able to find a solution for your situation. A little research and a little outlay of money up front and you could have a solution for many jobs to come. Just keep in mind one thing: if you want to be truly safe, ensure that your employees are protected WHILE these systems are being put into place.