Guardrails and Railings Information

handrailGuardrails and railings are used as fall protection systems or to establish controlled access zones. Falls occur when workers move from their center of gravity beyond a point of recovery, and may result in serious physical injury or bodily harm. In the United States, businesses and government agencies install guardrails and railings both to protect workers and ensure compliance the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Guardrails are defined as " a system of building components located near the open sides of elevated waking surfaces for the purpose of minimizing the possibly of an accidental fall from walking surface to the lower level."



Architectural railing or decorative guardrails and railings are designed to provide support and guidance, while being visually pleasing.


Balcony railing or guardrails are used to prevent personnel from falling off balcony ledges.


Bridge guardrails and railings are used on bridges for pedestrian and vehicle safety.


Cable guardrails and railings are composed of horizontal wire cables that are attached to posts to create a railing system.



Cable railing. Image Credit:


Decking guardrails or railings are used to prevent personnel from falling from decks or porches.


Highway guardrails and railings are used to prevent vehicles from going off the road.


Handrails are horizontal or sloping rail intended for grasping by the hand to guide a person while ascending or descending stairways.



Wooden handrail. Image Credit:


Pipe guardrails and railings are made of pipe and can be assembled on site or come pre-fabricated. The shape of the pipe can be circular, square, rectangular, or triangular.


Roof edge guardrails and railings are used for roof safety by protecting personnel from falling off the roof.


Roof hatch guardrails and railings are used for roof safety by protecting personnel from falling into or around a roof hatch.


Skylight guardrails and railings are used for roof safety by protecting personnel from fall into a skylight.


Stairway guardrails and railings are used to prevent falls and provide guidance when ascending or descending stairways.


Walkway guardrails and railings are used for protecting personnel from falling off elevated walkways, catwalks, and mezzanine walkways.


Warehouse guardrails and railings are used in industrial applications such as warehouses or factories to provide safety to personnel and vehicles like forklifts.


Warning lines are generally rope or chain lines that notify personnel of dangerous or hazardous areas.

There are several important characteristics to consider when selecting a guardrail or railing system.



Most guardrails and railings are made of standard schedule pipe to provide a smooth, continuous gripping surface along their entire length. These pipes are made of metal and are often painted or powder coated to provide a visual cue. Although designs for other products may vary, ADA railings must consist of a framework of horizontal rails and vertical uprights or posts. Often, the fittings are galvanized for long-term use and low maintenance.Although steel guardrails and railings are commonly available, many suppliers also offer products made of aluminum or aluminum-magnesium. Because most aluminum alloys will corrode when combined with a dissimilar metal, however, care should be taken to select corrosion-resistant products, especially for outdoor use. For extreme environments, anodized fittings and stainless steel screw sets are recommended.



Guardrails and railings that do not require drilling or welding are relatively easy to assemble, and do not require specialized workers or equipment. Guardrail systems are custom assembled on site to prevent falls and provide guidance to personnel in hazardous areas. These products are sold as complete systems, or are available as individual components. Examples of ADA railing system components include:

  • Single handrail sockets
  • Handrail connectors
  • Capped or uncapped twin handrail sockets
  • Angled elbows
  • End posts
  • Wall-mounted end returns
  • Handrail brackets

  • Top fix rail assemblies

Product specifications for guardrails and railings include

Color choices include white, black, yellow, red, blue, green and orange. Unpainted guardrails and railings are also available.


Blue guardrail. Image Credit:


Pipe sizes are specified by either schedule or gauge. Iron pipe size (IPS) products use the schedule to determine wall thickness. For gauge sizes, lower numbers indicate thicker walls.


Special features include decorative designs to fit into residential or architectural styles.



Decorative guardrail. Image Credit:


Portability is available for some guardrail and railing assemblies. This is useful for situations when temporary protection is necessary such as on a construction site, fair grounds, community event, etc.





There are several regulatory standards for guardrails and railings. These include OSHA, CCOS, EU-OSHA and ADA. 





 Image Credit: Kee Safety