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Posted by Stephanie on February 13, 2023

If you currently have a mezzanine installed in your warehouse or would like to add this structure to your facility, there are many OSHA safety standards that you must follow in regards to nearly every facet of the structure. For instance, numerous safety standards are in place pertaining to mezzanine railing. Mezzanine structures can be professionally manufactured or made at local fabrication shops, which is why it’s important that you determine if your mezzanine complies with modern safety standards.

When railings on mezzanines are poorly made, they create a fall hazard that the personnel in your facility will be at risk of encountering. In order to design a railing system that’s OSHA-compliant, you must take gates, finish, material choice, post spacing, and gates into account. The following is a detailed look at the OSHA safety standards that must be met for mezzanine railing.

Mezzanine Guardrail Safety Standards

In the event that you’re building a mezzanine, fall protection should be a primary concern of yours. While falls are common in warehouse settings, they don’t need to be. They are expensive and mostly avoidable. Fall prevention violations are also at the top of the list of OSHA’s annual safety violations. Guardrails are typically required along open sides of any platform that’s at least four feet above the ground.

Capacity Requirements

Railings need to accommodate a specific amount of weight to ensure that they don’t fail when a person puts their weight against them. OSHA states that 200 pounds is the main requirement. This weight should be applied in an outward or upward direction without the rail failing. If the weight is applied downwards, the uppermost rail can’t deflect to a height that’s lower than 39 inches above the surface.

Height Requirements

According to OSHA, the top edge of railings need to be around 42 inches above the working or walking level. An allowance of plus or minus three inches is given. The International Building Code (IBC) uses the same 42-inch guidelines but doesn’t allow for a three-inch variance. If the top railing isn’t sufficient to prevent falls, an intermediate material will need to be installed. Your main options include:

  • Mid-rails that are installed around the halfway point between the surface and top edge
  • Mesh or solid screening along the opening
  • Vertical posts that allow for openings less than 19-inches wide

Finding the Right Railing

Building codes are more extensive than basic guidelines, which means that there may be requirements aside from IBC or OSHA that you’ll need to take into account, the primary of which are ADA regulations. If you want to obtain the right railing, you must ensure that it meets all local, state, and national safety standards. Our team at QMH can guide you through this process and make sure that all safety regulations are met.

OSHA Mezzanine Railing Compliancy Standards

OSHA maintains some basic mezzanine railing compliancy standards in regards to everything from the materials you use to the positioning of the railing.

Close-up Of Person Hands Using Stamper On Document With The Text Approved

Material Choice

The material you use needs to be durable. The mid-rail and top rail should have a diameter of at least 1/4 inch. The railing’s surface needs to be smooth to keep employees from experiencing punctures, cuts, and snagging issues.

Railing Positioning

OSHA maintains a specific positioning range that all railings must adhere to. The height of the guardrail can be anywhere from 39-45 inches. The mid-rails need to be placed halfway along the railing’s edge and the surface. As for the railing itself, it can’t cause extra hazards. Make sure that the ends of the mid-rails and top rails don’t hang over the terminal posts because of the possibility that employees walk into them and become injured.

In-fill Panels and Toeboards

If there isn’t a parapet or wall that’s higher than 21 inches, the gap will be non-compliant. In this scenario, in-fill panels or toeboards should be installed. The guidelines for these aspects of mezzanine railing include:

  • In-fill mid-rails or panels need to be installed to keep the opening from being more than 19 inches
  • Mesh or screen in-fill panels need to extend from the surface to the uppermost rail
  • Toeboards need to be around 3.5 inches high with a gap of less than 1/4 inch
  • The toeboard walking surface will need to withstand an outward or downward force of 50 pounds or less
  • All toebards must run the length of an open space in the event that there’s a possibility of objects falling to a lower level

OSHA Guardrail Code and Requirements

In this portion of OSHA code, the main guardrail guidelines and requirements are listed. The sections mentioned below are the ones that are most important to guardrails or railings when it comes to fall protection.

1910.29(b)(1) – Railing must consist of an intermediate rail, top rail, and posts.

1910.29(k)(1) – Toeboards usually have a vertical height of 3.5 inches from the bottom of the floor or ramp to the top edge. All toeboards need to be properly fastened in place with a clearance of less than 1/4 inch.

1910.29(f)(3) – Any stair rail or handrail systems need to come with a smooth surface to keep lacerations and punctures at bay.

1910.29(b)(9) – All mid-rails or top rails need to come with a thickness/diameter of 1/4 inch or more.

OSHA Railing FAQs

Q: At what height does OSHA require railing or fall protection?
A: OSHA states that any alteration in elevation of at least 48 inches is considered a fall hazard that requires fall protection. This protection can be anything from warning signs along railing systems to updates in company policy.

Q: What are OSHA guardrail requirements?
A: According to OSHA, guardrails must be constructed at a total height of 42 inches with an allowance for plus or minus three inches. In the event that the railing is lower than 39 inches as a result of the force placed on it, the railing won’t be OSHA compliant. Preexisting railings or parapets are acceptable at 36 inches or higher.

Q: How much weight should safety railings support?
A: Safety railings need to support around 200 pounds of weight in all directions without breaking down.

Q: What is OSHA compliant railing vs. grandfathered-into-OSHA compliance?
A: According to OSHA 1910.28, all railings that were installed in the 60 days prior to April 10, 1990 will be grandfathered into OSHA compliance. However, these railings need to have a minimum height of 36 inches. Any railings that are constructed after this data must be built at a standard height of 42 inches.

Q: Does OSHA require railings to attach to a structure or building?
A: Railings aren’t required to be mounted directly to a supporting structure. However, the railing you have installed will need to withstand a force of around 200 pounds in any area along the railing. If it can withstand this amount of force, it’s not required to be attached to a structure.

Q: What are the OSHA requirements for railing post spacing?
A: OSHA guidelines state that guardrail posts can’t be spaced more than eight feet apart. Regardless of the material you use, posts that are over eight feet apart aren’t considered OSHA-compliant.

Q: What does OSHA require for the diameter of the top rails and mid-rails?
A: All mezzanine railings need to be around 0.25 inches in thickness or diameter.

Q: How far apart can the vertical rails or balusters be?
A: Balusters and other intermediate vertical members can’t be more than 19 inches apart. You can keep openings from being more than 19 inches wide by installing mesh screens, mid-rails, and similar architectural panels in the openings.

Q: When is a toeboard required by OSHA?
A: Toeboards are necessary in areas where it’s possible for objects to fall to lower levels and cause workers to become injured. A toeboard should be added where hazards exist. However, OSHA doesn’t indicate what the exact length of the board should be. The only regulation is that it needs to be long enough to keep employees and personnel protected. These boards need to be solid and can’t have a gap of over 1/4 inch along the bottom. As for the height, it must be around 3.5 inches up from the ground.

Why Choose QMH?

At QMH, we create turnkey warehouse mezzanines that can be customized to meet your specific needs. Because of our experience with mezzanines, we understand how to ensure the entire structure adheres to OSHA safety standards. Call us today if you have any mezzanine railing inquiries that you’d like to speak with us about.

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