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J Safety Res. 2010 Jun;41(3):203-11. doi: 10.1016/j.jsr.2010.02.008. Epub 2010 Apr 12.

Evaluation of guardrail systems for preventing falls through roof and floor holes.

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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Safety Research, 1095 Willowdale Road, Morgantown, WV 26505, USA.



Fall-related occupational injuries and fatalities are serious problems in the U.S. construction industry, especially incidents related to unguarded holes. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Safety Research, Morgantown, WV conducted a project to evaluate the effectiveness of guardrail systems to prevent falls through roof and floor holes.


Two commercial edge-protection products were evaluated when used as perimeter guarding around a roof hole. Installations of the commercial products were compared to job-built guardrails constructed of 2('')x4('') construction-grade lumber. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations require that "a force of at least 200 pounds" must be supported by the top rail of a guardrail system "in any outward or downward direction at any point along the top edge." A laboratory testing system was developed to evaluate this requirement. A dynamic 200-lb force was generated against the top rail using a weighted manikin mounted on a hinged steel frame. Nine construction workers, who served as test subjects, each built five different guardrail configurations.


All 45 configurations met the 200-lb OSHA requirement. Installation time for one commercial product was 32% quicker than the job-built configuration (25.6 min vs. 37.9 min).


This study: (a) indicates that the two edge-protection products can be used as perimeter guarding; (b) highlights the importance of using proper materials and fasteners to construct guardrails to protect workers from falling into unguarded roof and floor holes; and (c) discusses an overall-strength-testing methodology that can be used by fall-protection researchers.

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