Have you made your guardrail non-compliant?
Posted 18th Apr
Freestanding guardrail is a fantastic and secure edge protection solution that is preferred over personal protection such as lifelines according to the work at height hierarchy.
Though the system will have been tested to ensure it meets all required fall protection legislation, once installed, its integrity and effectiveness can depend entirely on you carrying out the correct maintenance and meeting your health and safety responsibilities.
If you are responsible for the premises the system is installed on, i.e. you are the owner or site manager, then you must ensure inspection and recertification is carried out.
Like all fall protection systems, guardrail must be properly inspected and recertified by a competent professional to ensure it is safe for use on a continuing basis. It is a legal requirement that this inspection is carried out at least once a year.
Could your system be non-compliant?
While there isn’t a specific regulation or standard relating to cantilevered or free-standing guardrails, several standards do relate to the systems such as KeeGuard, and whilst the system itself should be designed to meet these standards, various factors can lead to the system becoming non-compliant.
When edge protection is installed, it must comply with appropriate wind-loading and deflection criteria, outlined in both Part 1-4 of Eurocode 1: Actions on Structure and EN 13374.
EN 13374 outlines requirements for three classes of edge protection system.
● Class A 0-10° roof pitch
● Class B 10-30° roof pitch
● Class C 30-45° roof pitch
All classes have a static load requirement, and class B & C also have a dynamic load applied representing someone rolling down the roof slope and making contact with the edge protection system. The manufacturer must demonstrate compliance to this standard by testing the variations where they claim their products can be installed on.
Whilst freestanding guardrail should meet these standards, self-modification of the system - such as the removal of sections or even the addition of non-standard pieces such as a satellite dish or signage - can make it non-compliant.
At Steadfast, we see too often systems fail our recertification process due to self-modification.
It is important to know that, in general, nothing should ever be attached to your guardrail system, as it will damage the integrity of your system.
This also goes for temporary additions: another common mistake is workers attaching to the system using lanyards and harnesses. Guardrail is categorised as collective fall protection, whilst lanyards are defined as personal fall protection. These two types of systems are not interchangeable and guardrailing should never be used as an anchor point for your lanyard. Should a fall occur, the guardrail is likely to fail and lead to serious injury or death.
If an accident was to occur, and a HSE investigation found that your system was non-compliant, you might find yourself in hot water.
No matter the testing and design requirements of your chosen system, ultimately compliance is entirely dependent on correct installation in the first place. If the system is not installed correctly by a third party installer, it will become non-compliant and is considered a risk.
A common issue we encounter is the removal of guardrail by external companies when carrying out roof work. The guardrail is then put back incorrectly, due to either lack of knowledge or competence.
What can you do?
If you are concerned that your guardrail system has become non-compliant since installation, or you have not had it recently inspected, you should contact an accredited third-party inspection and recertification company immediately.