Guardrails are necessary to protect workers from falls that can seriously injure or even result in death. There are minimum standards for guardrails that specify the height of the rail and the strength of force that the rail should be able to withstand. The amount of protection guardrails actually provide depends on how they are constructed and maintained. Most guardrails are built of strong materials and are usually solid when first constructed. As time goes by and the project progresses, however, guardrails are often abused, weakened, broken or moved and not replaced.
REMEMBER: NEVER WORK OFF GUARDRAILS – THAT IS NOT WHY THEY ARE THERE!
At times, sections of guardrails must be taken down to make room for materials or equipment that is being brought onto the site. Often, these sections are not replaced and if they are, it is done so in a quick and careless manner. Weakened or improper guardrails can be seen to be more dangerous than no guardrails at all because they are providing a false sense of security.
Many guardrail accidents can be avoided by following a few simple rules:
- Through the course of working on the jobsite, you should get into the habit of consistently checking the guardrails. If you discover a weakened or missing rail or section, correct the situation immediately. If you are unable to fix it yourself, immediately report it to your supervisor so that the hazard can be eliminated.
- If you bump a rail with material or equipment, check it to make sure it has not been weakened. If you discover that it has been weakened, or that you have broken a rail, upright or toe board, repair it or report it immediately so that it can be repaired.
When repairing or replacing guardrails, all subcontractors should be sure to replace them in such as way that they are as strong and as effective as when first established. If there is any doubt as to the strength of the guardrail, always report it to the site superintendent.