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The Guardian Fall Team Blog

This week we expand on the concept of permanent versus temporary fall protection installations. In the same way you can’t judge a book by its cover, you cannot judge a fall protection solution by its perceived suitability for short- or long-term use. As always, true understanding comes by a thorough examination of all aspects of the situation, and having the expertise on which to base your decisions. Once again, Charlie Garcia from our ESG group puts a fine point on the topic.

Is Free-Standing Guardrail Rated for Permanent Use?

In a previous blog post, I wrote about the fine line between “permanent” and “temporary” products as a whole. This post will focus specifically on guardrail, because the question of whether “free-standing” systems can still be allowed for permanent use is part of the broader discussion about permanent guardrail in general.

Free-Standing Guardrail

Maybe your concern is any system that is “moveable” should be considered “temporary,” because under extreme circumstances (say Hurricane 'What’s-His-Face') they can be knocked over. Or, maybe you are simply looking for general recommendations on what the “best” solution is for permanent use.

Well, to start off – and to address the first possible concern about “moveable” systems – I will definitively state that yes, free-standing guardrail is permitted for permanent use. As a matter of fact, there is no strict difference in requirements that could make the guardrail “rated” for permanent use as opposed to temporary only. The fact that it can be moved in the future does not mean that it is temporary by nature, it just means that it is easier to move if needed!

What do you mean there’s no difference in rating between a temporary and permanent guardrail? Won’t the aforementioned hurricane 'What’s-His-Face' knock a temporary guardrail over?

Oh… that’s what you meant. Well, at this point it may be helpful to point out that fall protection products are not typically engineered to adhere to building codes. Think of fall protection and building codes as a kind of apples to oranges comparison.*

So if you are concerned with any Guardian product, including guardrail, holding up against loads that are not related to fall prevention (or restraint, arrest, etc.) but are more like seismic or wind loads—that is when you know you have crossed the line into “structural design” or “building codes.” I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to determine which codes your system must follow. Until you figure that out, we can’t recommend the right product to meet those codes.

But when it comes to OSHA, you are fine. The strict distinction of a guardrail that is left on a roof “permanently” rather than left on a “temporary” jobsite does not affect how OSHA-compliant the employer is when they select that type of guardrail. The guardrail is equally capable of preventing falls in either application because the standards under which the guardrail was designed (OSHA 1910.23 and OSHA 1926.502) do not differentiate between permanent and temporary products.

So then, our discussion moves away from what is “required” and back to what is “recommended.” Even once you understand that free-standing guardrail “can” be used permanently, you may be wondering if it “should.” Let’s address some other concerns, then.

Will powder-coated steel hold up to the weather?

As with any product that consists of powder-coated steel, the durability is certainly superior to raw mild steel – we even called attention to its durability in this post – but any end user of permanent equipment should always consider material grade one of the most important factors. And the truth is that for some installations there are more robust options than powder-coated steel. In environments where corrosion is a serious concern, aluminum is an excellent alternative due to its anti-oxidative properties, and might be the better solution compared to powder-coated steel.

I know it’s a lot to think about, so if you’ve got questions, give me a call, I am more than happy to go over options with you as it relates to material grade. See below for additional options outside of our standard line of powder-coated G-Rail systems.

Don't You Have Anything 'Nicer'?

Do you think yellow is an ugly color to leave on a roof permanently? Do you disagree with using a “moveable” railing? Is powder coating not good enough? Do you have spatial issues with the outrigger requirement, a structure you want to attach to that is incompatible with the guardrail knuckle, or a project specification that our G-Rail system does not meet?

Fortunately there are a variety of alternatives.

XTP Custom Guardrail

We are able to make Custom G-rail Systems that can meet any of the following requirements:

  • Galvanized material
  • Powder-coated colors other than yellow
  • Made to attach directly into roof deck or structure
  • Made to meet other codes

We also have a line of Aluminum XTP Guardrail that has the primary advantage of being made up of nice and shiny, durable aluminum!

The XTP Guardrail can also be customized further, such as XTP Parapet-Mounted or XTP Wall-Mounted options. It can often be a great benefit to attach permanently into the structure without having to worry about roof penetrations!

Please contact Guardian’s Engineered Services Group (ESG) for additional information regarding the XTP Guardrail options.

Charlie Garcia
Engineered Services Group (ESG)
A division of Guardian Fall Protection
(800) 466-6385 ext. 105

* While you should always consult with the appropriate authorities to verify which codes must apply to your system, I can say that as a general rule of thumb you’ll need to meet building codes for areas that will be accessible to the public. In other words, if the roof is a public space that may have small children trying to climb between the rails or teenagers trying to knock over the railing, the design requirements are much stricter because building codes kick in.