OSHA Railing Requirements

Note: OSHA updated their requirements on Jan. 17. 2017. Click here to read about the update.

OSHA Railing Requirements

Warning: If you think OSHA is a small town in Wisconsin, you’re in trouble

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is part of the U.S. Department of Labor. OSHA railing requirements are put forward in their “1910.29 Guarding Floor and Wall Openings and Holes”.

OSHA generally applies to areas not open to the public and requirements are different from what you would expect to see in the residential and commercial building codes.

  • OSHA Railing requirements for Standard Railing (noted as “Guard” in building codes):
    • 42 inch minimum height
    • Required if 48 inches or greater drop from walking surface — top rail, intermediate rail and posts
    • Intermediate rail at “about halfway up”
    • Must have a toe board
  • OSHA Railing requirements for Stair Railing:
    • Required on stairs with four or more risers
    • 30 to 34 inches in height
    • Intermediate rail at “about halfway up”
  • What to use for Railings:
    • Wood Railings: 2 x 4 stock, not more than 6 feet apart
    • Pipe Railings: 1-1/2″ nominal diameter, not more than 8 feet apart
    • Steel: 2 x 2 x 3/8 inch angles not more than 8 feet on centers.
    • Any smooth surface railing that can withstand the load requirements
    • No extensions or overhangs.
  • OSHA Railing requirements for Load:
    • Railings must meet a 200-lb concentrated load.
    • Warning: Given this load requirement, it is highly unlikely that you can achieve a 6 foot span for a wood railing or an 8 foot span on steel or pipe railings. Review with an engineer to confirm load bearing ability of your installation.

View the current OSHA standard which applies to construction after January 17, 2017
The above reference is for construction prior to January 17, 2017

1 comment

Comments are closed.


View All »


Straightforward installation and the ability to customize your look.


Lighted Railing Installation

Installation instructions for Lumenrail®


Cable Railing Installation

Learn about Ultra-tec® cable cutting, swaging measurements and how to install cable railing.