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OSHA Guardrail & Handrail Requirements

OSHA’s guardrail height requirements include a variance of plus or minus 3 inches. Guardrail systems that are not at least 42 inches high can be cited as a technical violation.

Must Withstand 200 Pounds

All guardrail systems must be able to hold at least 200 pounds of pressure pushing out and down on the railing. Downward pressure should not bend railing past 39 inches above its walking-working surface. To test this, apply an appropriate force within 2 inches of the railing’s top edge.

Must Be Smooth

Guardrail system surfaces must be smooth. Smooth surfaces help protect personnel from injuries and prevent job-site hazards.

Must Be 1/4 Inch

The minimum thickness for guardrails, midrails and vertical members is 1/4 inch in diameter.

No Overhanging Rails

The ends of top rails and midrails of a guardrail system must not extend past the final post. The only exception to this rule is where the overhang does not present a projection hazard.

Midrails, Panels & Equivalents

OSHA regulations permit midrails, screens, meshes and vertical members in guardrail systems. These members must be able to hold at least 150 pounds of outward and downward pressure, and openings between members must not exceed 19 inches.

  • Midrails – installed between the top edge and walking-working surface no more than 19 inches apart
  • Screens and meshes – cover the entire opening between the top edge and walking-working surface
  • Intermediate vertical members – installed no more than 19 inches apart
  • Other equivalent intermediate members – installed with no opening more than 19 inches wide
  • Steel and plastic banding – not allowed as top rails or midrails

Read more: OSHA Guardrail & Handrail Requirements