Article by Dave Bell, Senior Technical Adviser for All Safety Consulting


All of us in the safety industry are aware that falls continue to be one of the leading causes of injuries and fatalities on construction projects.

The first line of protection against fall hazards is guardrails as spelled out in Section 26.1(1) A worker shall be adequately protected by a guardrail system…

Only when it is not practical to install a guardrail system, a means of fall protection (arrest, restriction, restraint) can then be used.

On my site visits, one of the most common contraventions, and therefore, hazards, is the lack of, or improper guardrail systems to protect from a fall hazard.

The Construction Regulations state that guardrails must be installed where a worker is exposed to the hazard of falling more than 3 metres, 2.4 metres on a scaffold or other temporary work platform, 1.2 metres on a ramp or work area that is a path for a wheelbarrow or other equipment. Guardrails are also required if a worker can fall into operating machinery, into a liquid, onto a hazardous substance or object or through an opening in a work surface.

While most employers are aware of the guardrail requirement surrounding falls from heights, the other situations are not as well understood.

In my experience, a most frequent lack of compliance surrounds openings in work surfaces such as skylights, duct shafts and window openings that extend to the floor.

Adequate guardrails must be designed and constructed in a manner to resist forces as specified in the Construction Regulations. The Regulations specify the height and construction of all components including top rail, mid rail as well as toe board.

The IHSA has published documents on guardrail systems that summarize details for the construction of guardrail systems. If a guardrail system is constructed in accordance with these details, it will be accepted as resisting the specified forces.

Challenges arise when site conditions do not allow the use of the IHSA developed details and alternates must be implemented.

All Safety Consulting can assist you with compliance for guardrail systems.