Solution Summary: Considering Cast-in Sockets for Guardrails and Handrails During the Design Phase
The specification of temporary or permanent guardrail systems around floor openings or exposed open sides is a prevention through design (PtD) process that addresses worker exposure to fall hazards during the design stages of a project. Having guardrails installed could minimize, or even eliminate, the need for additional fall arrest roof anchors (and related personal fall arrest equipment), temporary barricades, or signs during operation and maintenance tasks.
Guardrails are the primary means of fall protection in construction and are required by OSHA, under 1926.501(b)(1), for unprotected sides or edges that is 6 feet or more above a lower level. It is a passive form of fall protection that is a physical barrier that prevents workers from falling to lower levels. A guardrail consists of a top rail at a height of 42 inches (+ 3 inches) above the walking/working level and a midrail at a height of 21 inches above the walking/working level.
Additionally, OSHA requires, under 29 CFR 1926.502(b)(3), guardrail systems to withstand, without failure, a force of 200 pounds applied within 2 inches of the top edge, in any outward or downward direction.
During the design of the building, cast-in sockets can be specified around floor openings or exposed open sides which make it easy for contractors to install temporary guardrails during the construction phase. The sockets can also be used for permanent railings.
Cast-in sockets along the open side of a staircase. (Photo courtesy of John Gambatese)
Rail system installed along an interior floor opening. (Photo courtesy of John Gambatese)
Falls from height can cause serious injury and death. Properly installed guardrails can prevent worker injury or death from falls by providing a physical barrier. This method of fall prevention is preferable to fall arrest systems because it prevents a worker from falling, once installed, requires no additional action from the worker. A guardrail can help reduce injury or death by preventing falls from heights.
How Risks are Reduced:
Installing guardrails early on in the construction process can eliminate the risk of a fall through a floor opening or an exposed open side. When constructed correctly, guardrails can prevent a worker from falling from elevated workplaces. Guardrails provide a physical barrier between the worker and the fall hazard.
Safety and health experts, as well as manufacturers and vendors, firmly believe there is a fall risk reduction when guardrails are erected and installed correctly. A guardrail is termed a "fall prevention method," which means it prevents a worker from falling from a height. This method is preferred over other types of fall protection such as personal fall arrest systems and safety nets, which are systems that arrest the falls once it happened. When these methods are employed, the worker experiences a fall and is caught by the safety equipment. On the other hand, guardrails effectively eliminate the fall hazard when installed correctly.
Due to the installation of cast-in sockets, these guardrail systems may not include 3 1/2-inch tall toeboards. Toeboards prevents objects on the working surface from falling to lower levels.
Hole Covers can also be used to cover exposed floor holes.
The information on this page was adapted from the Falls From Floor Openings document. Further, through the OSHA Alliance Program's Construction Roundtable, the Roundtable participants developed this product for informational purposes only. It does not necessarily reflect the official views of OSHA or the U.S. Department of Labor.
Le, Jean Christophe, MPH - CPWR - The Center for Construction for Research and Training
OSHA Alliance Program's Construction Roundtable
The sockets that can be embedded into the concrete for the installation of temporary or permanent guardrails will be dependent on the manufacturer's guidelines and guidance from a competent person with structural engineering experience. For more information of applicability, please contact the guardrail manufacturer directly. Guidance information can at Alliance Program Construction Roundtable
NIOSH Workplace Solutions Sheet
The National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) has published a series of “Workplace Solutions”, which are easy-to-understand recommendations from NIOSH research results. Related to this Construction Solution, please find more information on: Supporting Prevention through Design (PtD) Using Business Value Concepts and Preventing Falls from Heights through the Design of Embedded Safety Features