Guardrails offer a level of protection that is above personal fall arrest. When installed properly, guardrails prevent falls from happening. (WAC 296-155-24615)

Guardrails need to be inspected each day to ensure that they have not been compromised.  All workers are responsible to keep the guardrail working properly throughout the day.

Materials for Guardrails

  • Posts at least two-inch by four-inch stock spaced no more than eight feet OC
  • Top rail at least two-inch by four-inch stock
  • Intermediate rail at least one-inch by six-inch stock (or 2 by 4)
  • Toe board one-inch by four inch stock
  • Pipe – posts, top and intermediate railings at least one and one-half inches nominal OD
  • Wire rope - top and intermediate railings shall meet the strength factor below and not deflect below 39 inches.  The top railing shall be flagged at not more than six foot intervals with high-visibility material. (at least ¼ inch rope)

Standards for Guardrails

  • Guardrails between 39 and 45 inches (42 in. + 3) high
  • 200 pounds for top rail outward/ downward force
  • 150 pounds for intermediate rail
  • Toe boards gap ¼ inch (50 pounds OSHA)


  • Do not use guardrail to support other items
  • Make sure guardrails in load out areas have a system of securing rails between use
  • Have a tie off point for workers in areas where guardrails are temporarily removed

Use caution while working around a guardrail system. Remember, 200 pounds is not a lot of force and it is only the minimum specified by the standard. If possible, always install a guardrail system that is capable of withstanding more than 200 pounds of applied force along the top edge of the guardrail.

Presenter tips

  • Pre-read the Toolbox Talk. Your comfort level and confidence will be higher if you know your topic.
  • Discuss related tasks, work areas or events that make the Toolbox Talk relevant to your job site.
  • Involve the workers by asking questions and input that drives discussion.

Questions for Discussion

  • What are some ways of securing removable rails that are used for load out areas?
  • Look at the attached photos and discuss why they are in violation.