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Guardrail Vs. Handrail: How Are They Different?

The construction industry is characterized by a hazardous environment that puts the safety of workers at risk. To begin with, the construction requires workers to scale rooftops and other high structures with the likelihood of falling being significant.

Falling from a height of about six feet and above can have devastating consequences. Falls and other similar accidents will not only have a detrimental impact on the well-being of your employers but also come with a great financial burden for you as the employer. Nonetheless, with the help of safety barriers like handrails and guardrails, you can adequately mitigate the risk of falls.

Although both safety barriers almost sound similar they are very different in their functionality. The performance of guardrails and handrails is unique as it pertains to fall protection. In the same vein, their code requirements as well as their definitions are also distinct. A comprehensive guardrail vs handrail analysis should help you understand their differences better. Read on for more.

Understanding Guardrails

Alternatively referred to as standard railings, this type of safety barrier is designed to protect workers from the risk of falling from surfaces that are elevated. Apart from that, the guardrails help in alerting workers about the prevailing hazards in addition to curbing unauthorized access to any restricted areas.

These safety barriers are available in a wide spectrum of custom designs and styles including posts, intermediate rails, top boards, and top rails. These life-saving devices are meant to keep employees, materials, and equipment a few feets away from dangerous edges. Contrary to the way handrails are designed, guardrails are fitted on roof spaces, openings, platforms, landings, and mental steps to sufficiently curb falls in addition to saving lives.

Guardrail Code Requirements

Of course, guardrails are used as a solid safety barrier to keep construction workers from slipping and falling when building tall structures. It is mandatory for any structure that is four feet and above to be adequately protected using sturdy guardrails.

The guardrails must be installed on either side of the platform. Moreover, the guardrails should have a vertical height of 42 inches from the ramp, runway, or platform level.

That aside, Standard Directive 1-1.10 requires that every guardrail should feature top rails and toe boards for enhanced safety. Top or intermediate rails should also incorporate a thickness or diameter of 0.25 inches.

Understanding Handrails

Handrails are created to enhance safe movement in the construction environment. They are not designed to offer life-saving capabilities like would be the case for guardrails. Nevertheless, they are mounted onto the surfaces of walls to offer handhold support for employees in the course of the construction process.

The support they offer may also come in for disabled visitors or people who have a difficult time with mobility. Handrails are also fitted on slopes, ramps, and stairs for effortless navigation. Ideally, they are often incorporated in stairways that have three risers and above.

Handrail Code Requirements

Every exposed stair platform or stairway should be fitted with a standard handrail for sufficient fall protection. It is also imperative for the handrails to be installed on a single side of a closed stairway. Moving on, the side and the number of handrails are determined based on the width of the stairways. Additionally, there should be a minimum clearance of about 2.25 inches between installed handrails and other objects. Most importantly, the handrails should have proper dimensions to provide a firm grasp.

Final Verdict
Choosing the right safety barrier for your construction site should be easy now that you know the difference between guardrails and handrails. Guardrails are meant to offer life-saving protection against the risk of falling and are more dependable concerning functionality. Contrarily, handrails are designed to offer support for disabled people besides preventing falls.

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