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Guard Rail: When, Where and What

Exploring guard rail types and what they are used for

Guard Rail Inquiry

Forklift stopped by guardrail

Choosing guard rail can be confusing unless you understand clearly what kinds of conditions you are protecting against and what assets you are protecting. Whether it be fall protection for workers or asset protection from industrial vehicle usage, there is a guard rail that fits that need.

Fall Protection

OSHA has very specific requirements for fall protection. Basically those standards are: 1) guard rail must be placed in any location where a fall of more than 6 ft.  is possible, 2) the top height of railing must be at least 42″ tall, plus or minus 3″, 3) the railing must be able to withstand a minimum of 200 lbs. side and top loaded pressure with a maximum deflection of no more than 3″, 4)  a mid rail or mesh panel must fill the space between the mounting surface and the top rail, 5) the top rail must be a minimum of .25″ diameter so as to not cut or abrade workers’ hands. For the complete OSHA requirements, go to: More OSHA Requirements.

Asset Protection

The standards for asset protection are much looser with critical factors focusing on employee protection, therefore many of the standards used in fall protection apply in asset protection. Areas you would want to protect might be pallet rack aisle ends, conveyors, pedestrian aisles, building walls, work stations, electrical/utility panels and controls, HVAC equipment, in-plant offices, and mezzanines.

Comparisons

Guard Rail Types

Impact Capacity

Construction Type

Applications

Hand Rail Minimum of 200 lbs. top or side loaded Usually tubular steel; some flexible poly Fall protection: mezzanines, dock ramps, uneven floor levels
Asset protection: pedestrian aisles
Hand Rail
Pipe Rail Forklifts and industrial vehicles Schedule 40 steel 6″-8″ pipe rails;
Schedule 80 steel posts
Single rail: Asset protection for machines, walls, conveyor;
Double rail: Asset protection for traffic aisles, pedestrian walkways, utility panels, in-plant offices
Pipe Guard Rail
Flexible Poly Rail Forklifts and industrial vehicles 8″ Polymer Tubing rails, 4″ steel posts Asset protection: walls, machines, conveyor, pedestrian walkways, work stations utility panels, in-plant offices Flexible Poly Guard Rail
Light Duty Steel Pallet trucks and light industrial vehicles 14 gauge corrugated high strength steel rails, 6″ structural flange beam posts Single rail: Asset protection for conveyor, rack ends, walls
Double & triple rail: Asset protection for traffic aisles, pedestrian walkways, work stations utility panels, in-plant offices
Light Duty Guard Rail
Drop-In Lift-Out Rail Up to 5,000 lbs. 14 gauge W-shape high tensile strength steel rails, 4″ steel posts Single rail: Asset protection for conveyor, rack ends, walls
Double rail: Asset protection for traffic aisles, pedestrian walkways, utility panels, in-plant offices
Drop-In Lift-Out Guard Rail
Medium Duty Steel Fork truck and industrial vehicle impact 11 gauge double rib steel rails, 3″ structural steel posts Single rail: Asset protection for conveyor, rack end, walls
Triple rail: Asset protection for traffic aisles, pedestrian walkways, utility panels, in-plant offices
Medium Duty Guard Rail
Heavy Duty Steel Forklift and industrial vehicle impact 11 gauge high strength corrugated steel rails, 4″ structural steel square tube posts Single rail: Asset protection for conveyor, rack end, wall
Double rail: Asset protection for traffic aisles, pedestrian walkways, utility panels, in-plant offices
Heavy Duty Guard Rail

What the comparisons tell you

While many types of guard rail appear very similar, the primary differences are the grade of steel and other materials used in construction. That difference adds up to how many times the rail can withstand impact before deforming or damaging the anchor points and needing to be replaced. One advantage of the polymer based guard rail is the ability to deflect and dissipate the impact forces, leading to additional resiliency in the long run. All guard rail will fail if impacted enough times. What you want to consider is long-term cost efficiencies and risk factors for the particular locations you are installing guard rail at.

The long and short of it

Take a good look at the why of installing guard rail, the impact probabilities, and damage/injury risk you’re protecting against. Those should be your primary determinants in choosing a particular guard rail system. After all, achieving optimum safety is what you’re after, right?

 

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Scott Stone Cisco-Eagle's Director of Marketing. He has over 25 years of experience in the industry.