Why Hollywood Can’t Get Railing Right

holltywoodChoosing the Right Location

As part of a film or television program’s pre-production, “location scouts” are tasked with finding a suitable place or “location” outside of a studio that meets the scenery requirements of a particular scene.

As part of that process, the location scout is concerned with the overall aesthetic, cost, and practical logistics of the location — parking, catering, access for equipment, etc.

But, I can tell you one thing they are not concerned about — the railings.

Building Codes

One would assume that the locations would at least be property which needed to meet building code. Therefore the railings should meet building codes.

This should not be a surprise.  Building codes have changed over the years. Existing railing may have met the building code at the time it was installed but not meet today’s codes. Unless there is a major renovation, local codes do not require that a building is brought up to current standards. This is most notable in the area of opening requirements for guards.

The current requirement for a guard is that no opening be large enough that a 4″ sphere can pass. However, this dimension has changed over the years. At one time, the allowance was 9″ and later it became 6″. The result is that there are numerous legacy guard installations in place where the openings would now be considered too large.

You should be aware though that while the requirement doesn’t exist to meet the current opening requirements, this is not an acceptable defense in the case of a civil suit should a child fall through that opening. The building codes are considered a minimum standard for safety. I often warn fabricators, “do you want to appear in court and claim you met the minimum standard for safety?”.

So film locations are just a reflection of what actually out in the real world.


Still, they catch my attention. Here are two of my more recent discoveries.

commercial bad railingI saw this commercial during the World Series. So many things jumped out at me. The extensions for the handrail are unsafe and do not meet the code requirements — they should return to the floor or to the post. The posts are spaced too far apart to meet the load requirements. The glass rail at the center right doesn’t have a top rail. My thought, what airport in the United States would possibly be constructed this way? Fortunately, when I posted this photo before, I had someone point out that this is not an actual airport but a photo rendering.

Bosch1This second photo is from a television series on Amazon Prime called “Bosch”. Bosch is a Hollywood homicide detective who lives in a beautiful home in the Hollywood Hills (back story is that he sold the story of one of his cases for a movie and used that to buy the home).  With such a nice view, the designer made an excellent choice by installing a cable railing around the deck. The cable railing maximizes sight lines.

Here’s the rub, while the opening limitation for guards is 4″, you can’t place cable 4″ on-center because of its flex. Cables must be spaced around 3″ on center and be properly tensioned and supported to limit the cable from being spread to 4″.

BoschTake a look at the second photo and you should be able to make out that the cables in this installation are spaced way beyond the 3″ recommendation as well as the 4″ requirement. Look closer and you will see that the bottom cable is slack and drooping significantly. Thankfully Bosch has neither small children or pets or this would be an accident waiting to happen.

Wagner Can Help

Don’t risk creating a hazard. Wagner can help answer your questions about code compliance. Contact us for more information.


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