Those of us in the roofing industry understand the vital importance of putting measures in place to prevent injury while on the job. When executed properly, an OSHA fall protection plan not only protects you and your employees, it keeps your company compliant. Safety and OSHA compliance are critical factors from a financial standpoint.
When considering OSHA fall protection, the standard for guiding your procedures should be OSHA’s “Hierarchy of Controls.” This is a rundown of the most effective actions for protecting employees. The “Hierarchy of Controls” is demonstrated via an inverted pyramid in which eliminating fall hazards are at the top because it’s the most effective way of protecting employees. Using personal protective equipment is at the bottom of the pyramid and is considered the least effective way to prevent injuries. In the middle is engineering controls or physical systems that can be put in place for fall protection.
One such engineering control that has proved highly effective in preventing injury is a guardrail system. Guardrail systems are passive fall protection devices that can be built in areas where hazards exist, creating a barrier between them and potential danger. Unlike active fall protection devices like fall restraints, users don’t have to perform any sort of action to be protected by a guardrail. It simply exists with no further action needed.
OSHA Guidelines for Guardrail Systems
OSHA has provided a set of regulations to govern how guardrails are to be constructed. These regulations are critical because falls due to inadequate guardrail systems often prove serious. Below are highlights of those regulations. For the full list, visit the OSHA website.
- The top of the guardrail system must be between 39 and 45 inches above the walking or working surface unless working conditions do not warrant this arrangement.
- Items such as midrails or screens, among others, are needed when there’s no wall or other structure at least 21 inches high. The midrail must be between the top rail and the walking surface.
- Guardrails must be able to withstand at least 200 pounds of force applied within 2 inches of the top of the rail without being pushed down to less than 39 inches above the ground.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.