4 Signs You Should Invest In a Guard Railing

The residential and commercial building codes (IRC and IBC, respectively) have specific definitions and requirements for guards (guardrails).

guard-railingInteresting point of trivia: the I-codes (IBC and IRC) do not refer to guard railing as that term is commonly used for the railings you find on the side of a highway. Guard is what they define since a guard is not necessarily a railing — it could be a solid wall, a combination of a wall and railing, or other structure. OSHA, however, does use guardrail in their requirements.

So here are

1. There’s a significant drop from one level to the level below

Building codes are specific as to the requirements for fall protection. The model codes typically require a guard once there is a drop of 30 inches or more. Some local jurisdictions have reduced this in some parts of the country. Always check with your local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to confirm prior to specification. Bear in mind though that the codes are considered a “minimum standard for safety”. If you are concerned about the drop, then include a guard in your design. There’s nothing wrong with being more cautious if the situation calls for it. OSHA, by the- way, does not require a guardrail unless there is a 48″ drop but railings covered by OSHA are not open to the public and would in areas that have restricted access.

2. There’s a potential hazard on the other side

There is a difference in the building codes between a guard and a barrier. A guard is in place to stop accidental falls.


However, a guard is not a barrier. A barrier is in place to restrict climbing. Barriers are most commonly seen around pools but are not universally required in all jurisdictions. A pool is considered an “attractive nuisance” as a child may choose to go for a swim while not supervised. Barriers have a higher height requirement with smaller allowable openings. Other than the barrier requirements, are no climbability restrictions within the building codes. However, be aware that there are climbability restrictions in Canada and some local jurisdictions. Confirm your requirements when specifying.

3. You have children

A guard is in place to prevent accidents. The model codes require a guard if there is a drop. Additionally, no opening can be large enough that a 4-inch sphere can pass. It must also meet structural requirements.

If a child is running around on a balcony and accidently trips, the guard should be high enough to keep the child from going over, the openings small enough so that a child does not go through, and strong enough that a child striking the guard will not cause it to break apart. But, those are not the only concerns. Most balconies have planters or furniture. The climbing risk of these movable objects is a risk. Nothing will do more to assure a safe environment that supervision. Do not leave your children on a deck or balcony unsupervised.

4. You want Peace of Mind

A properly designed and installed guard will provide safety to you, your guests and your family. Safety in the home is extremely important. While vigilance remains the best way to avoid an accident, providing a safe environment for you, your family, and friends is an important piece of the safety puzzle. Why take a risk?

Wagner can help with your requirements for guards and railings. If you have any questions about what you should be looking for in terms of design or requirements, contact us.


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