Posted: 30 Apr '18 8:00pm

Using Guardrail Systems for Fall Protection on Roof Tops


Nearly one-third of fatalities in the construction sector result from falls from elevated areas. Falls from rooftops account for most of these fatalities. Workers working on rooftops require fall protection in the form of personal arrest systems, and most importantly guardrail systems for fall protection.

This guide summarizes the types of guardrail systems for fall protection available to workers and standard practices required in guardrail installation and maintenance.

Types of Guardrail Systems for Fall Protection

There are three main types of guardrail systems for fall protection on rooftops - non-penetrating, fixed-base, and portable.

Non-penetrating guardrails

As the name suggests, non-penetrating guardrails are temporary systems installed without “penetrating” or making holes into the surface being worked on. Instead of fasteners, weights hold the system in place. This makes non-penetrating guardrails your best option if you plan to move the guardrail system on a regular basis.

Portable construction guardrails

Portable guardrail systems for fall protection also don’t penetrate the mounting surface. However, unlike non-penetrating guardrails, they come in both temporary and permanent configurations. One of their key advantages is that the anchors easily clamp to braces for quick installation and are designed for use with standard 2 x 4 wood posts. Portable guardrails are mostly used on flat, parapet, or overhanging roofs.

Fixed (or fixed-base) guardrails

Finally, fixed guardrails are, as the name suggests, permanent systems put in place to last the entire period of the project. They are excellent for frequently accessed or hazardous work areas and are therefore a good selection when working on commercial rooftops and manufacturing facilities.

Standard Practices for Guardrail Installation and Maintenance

To further increase worker safety, there are standard practices guiding how guardrail systems for fall protection are installed and maintained. The following are some of the most important practices to keep in mind;

  • All open rooftops should be protected by a guardrail consisting of a top rail, middle (or intermediate) rail, a toe board, and posts.
  • Where wood is used, post stocks should be no less than 2 x 4 inches, with posts placed no more than 8 feet apart.
  • Cables and chains are not recommended, especially for top railings, as they are difficult to maintain and invite workers to use the top rail for unintended, potentially risky purposes.
  • The top height of the guardrail must be between 39-45 inches above the working area, unless the conditions warrant otherwise.
  • The top rail must be able to withstand a minimum of 2,000 pounds of force applied in any direction, with insignificant deflection.

Find the Best Guardrail Systems for Fall Protection

Looking forward to a roofing project? Contact us today, to select from the best guardrail systems for fall protection.

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