More than any other workplace safety regulation, fall protection failures consistently top the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) list of most violated standards. These cases amount to millions of dollars in fines and lawsuits, but more than that, they result in real harm to real people. One of the primary jobs of any commercial property owner is to keep those on the property out of harm’s way. This isn’t generally difficult - even in the riskiest of landscapes and workplaces, the responsible parties can easily follow standard guidelines to keep their people safe.
Railings constitute a large part of the safety features of any property. Any place that entails a risk of fall, be it a ditch, staircase, or rooftop, needs proper protection. This is where projects can get complicated. The type of railing material, its quality, its placement, and design all impact its performance and feel. More, codes and regulations can be perplexing, making implementing the proper protection tricky.
Those serious about the safety of their homes and workplaces turn to Long® Fence. Since 1945, our name has become synonymous with quality products and dependable service. Our experienced specialists can help you tailor a fence to suit the needs of your property and budget. With decades of experience in commercial and residential fencing, we can help you navigate the nuances of municipal codes and OSHA regulations. Our trained professionals take the highest quality materials and work them into beautiful and lasting finished products.
This page will share all the information you will need to know about building a safety fence. It will introduce you to the relevant OSHA standards and building codes and move into your options for the placement, type, and material of your fence. Remember, Long® Fence is here to help you every step of the way. Share some information about your project and get started with a FREE estimate today.
What Are the Requirements for Safety Railings?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the main administration in charge of workplace safety. OSHA regulations are deep and complex, and like civil statutes, they continue to evolve. The regulations that pertain to fences and fall prevention can be found mainly in Section 1910.29. Before diving into the standards, let’s set some definitions as provided by OSHA.
A guardrail system generally consists of vertical, horizontal, or inclined supports; top rails; midrails; screens; mesh or solid panels; intermediate vertical members; or other equivalent structural members.
Rail used to provide workers with a handhold for support. Handrails may be horizontal, vertical, or sloping.
This term means a barrier erected along the exposed or open side of stairways to prevent workers from falling to a lower level.
Railings used for steps that aren’t fully stairways. These are kept to 36” high, and are often used in residential construction as well as commercial.
For any workplace, drops more than 4 feet must be protected. In general, these are the most important requirements for safety railings and fences:
- A guardrail must be 42 inches in height (1910.29(b)(1))
- A guardrail must have a midrail at least 21 inches above the working surface (1910.29(b)(2))
- Guardrails must be able to withstand a force of 200 lbs (1910.29(b)(3))
- Midrails must be able to withstand a force of 150 lbs (1910.29(b)(5))
- A 2017 update to the OSHA rules provides more flexibility around choosing the appropriate fall protection mechanisms and adds specifics around special cases like wall openings and dangerous equipment.
As one quickly finds, the OSHA guidelines are extensive and far-reaching. The administration places requirements on height, width, and strength of all safety rails and fences in addition to standards around their placement.
Failing to ensure the safety of the workplace can result in pain and injury for workers and their families. If OSHA finds violations before they result in an injury, fines for can still cost millions. On their penalties page, one can explore the maximum fines for different levels of offense. If an injury does occur, investigations can result in higher penalties in addition to significant reputational damage. Inadequate safety protocols can also result in massive liability in civil court with lawsuits of six or seven figures. In all, installing preventative safety fencing keeps both your workers and your balance sheet safe.
Advantages of Commercial Safety Railings
Beyond maintaining compliance with building codes, safety fences offer other meaningful improvements to any property. See the list below of the top benefits of safety railings:
- Protect employees and visitors: You don’t want to keep an unsafe workplace or put your visitors at risk. Keep them - and your peace of mind - intact with sturdy railings and fences.
- Protect landscaping and guide pedestrians: nothing disappoints more than a trampled flower bed. Guide pedestrians and wrangle kids and pets into designated walkways with railings that guard your more delicate landscaping features.
- Aesthetic beauty: At Long® Fence, practicality meets charm in a safety fence. Refine walkways, delineate boundaries, and complement existing structures with decorative and purposeful fencing.
Types of Safety Fences
Carrying on centuries of tradition, ironwork provides refinement and distinction to any fence. Stroll through the French Quarter of New Orleans, and you’ll walk under a world of art on its balconies, with centuries-old iron railings built by Haitian tradesmen. Bring that beauty to your home, in addition to the other advantages of iron-like strength and easy maintenance. Decorative castings, bowed balustrades, and custom colors can add a distinct look to any application.
Vinyl excels in its durability, strength, and flexibility. Very little maintenance is required of vinyl fencing as owners won’t need to re-paint or re-stain the material. It resists rot, mold, pests, and other hazards that can break down a fence and shorten its lifespan. Installation of vinyl fencing proves relatively simple, and once the fence is installed, owners can rest assured knowing their fence will remain intact for years to come. Vinyl comes in many styles and forms, and Long® Fence can install optional balustrades can add a custom look to your project.
Wood railings fit into most budgets and provide classic beauty. Wood matches nearly any setting, while its unlimited variability allows builders to match the style and feel of its surroundings perfectly. The many different types of wood and stains allow further customization. Wood fences do require maintenance, but with basic work like cleaning and re-staining, you can lengthen your fence’s life and look. Long® Fence can customize your wood safety railing to meet the specifications and requirements of your job.
Choose Long® Fence For Your Safety Railing Project
Safety railings necessitate experienced professionals and quality materials. In this article, we’ve laid out the regulations, options, and advantages for all the different possibilities:
- OSHA standards require very specific specifications around safety fences and fall protection. In order to keep workplaces safe and protect firms from OSHA fines and legal liability, companies will want seasoned professionals like those at Long® Fence who understand the ins and outs of the industry.
- Residential codes also spell out detailed requirements for safety fences and railings. These can vary city to city, making it important to turn to those with deep knowledge in residential fencing. Long® Fence experts can assess each individual property and work with the owners to mitigate all the risks in the area.
- Quality of materials is especially important to ensure safety and provide long-lasting, cost-effective solutions fitted to the needs of each project.
See for yourself why so many customers have turned to Long® Fence for their needs since 1945. Get a FREE estimate on our website and talk to an expert today.