- Placing guardrails around the hazard area.
- Deploying safety nets.
- Providing personal fall arrest systems (harnesses) for each employee.
This includes areas such as at the top of excavations. Many of our excavations are deep enough to cause serious injury if a worker were to fall into one. Guardrails are preferred over fall protection as they are passive systems. This means that once it is installed, no further action is needed. It will protect everyone in the area. A personal fall arrest system is an active system, meaning that the worker needs to tie off each time they approach the hazard. There is more chance for error, or forgetting to tie off. Another benefit of the guardrail system is that it does not need to be as strong as an anchor point. While an anchor point needs to be 5,000 pounds, a guardrail only needs to hold 200 pounds.
When we choose a guardrail system, we must comply with the following provisions:
- The top height of top rails must be between 39 and 45 inches above the walking/working level, basically 31/2 feet tall, or 42 inches. If workers are standing on a work horse or other platform, then the height of the top rail must be increased the same amount as the height of the horse.
- Midrails, screens, mesh, or similar structures, must be installed between the top edge and the walking/working surface when there is no wall or other structure at least 21 inches high.
- Midrails must be midway between the top edge of the guardrail system and the walking/working level.
- Screens and mesh, if used, must extend from the top rail to the walking/working level, and along the entire opening between rail supports.
- Guardrail systems must be capable of withstanding at least 200 pounds of force. When force is applied, the top edge of the guardrail cannot deflect more than 2 inches.
- Midrails, screens, mesh, and other intermediate members must be capable of withstanding at least 150 pounds of force.
- Guardrail systems must not have rough or jagged surfaces that would cause punctures, lacerations, or snagged clothing. No double headed nails on the top surface are allowed.
- Top rails and midrails must not cause a projection hazard by overhanging the terminal posts. Trim excess or adjust overlap at uprights to prevent lumber from sticking out.
These guardrail uprights must be installed every 8 feet or less. Lumber must overlap at the uprights at least 12 inches. The guardrail must be snugged up to the structure, not loose. Do not tie off a harness to these systems, they are not fall arrest.
If guardrails are not installed on shoring or open sides, then a barrier such as snow fence needs to be installed at least 6 feet away from the hazard. Plan out the protection and install before it is needed. Inspect daily prior to working in these areas.