Canadian Contractor

Alec Caldwell   

Danger: Guardrails built ‘for appearances’ can kill or cripple

Canadian Contractor Permits & Legal risk

Don't mess around building half-assed guardrails, unless you are prepared to go to jail. Look up the regulations for their construction, and follow them.

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Many guardrails look like they’ve been thrown quickly together and are simply there for appearances. Which they probably are. But building a guardrail for appearances is like packing a parachute made of kleenex “for appearances.”

Non-compliant rails – like kleenex parachutes – give false hope. In the event of an injury or death occurring on your job site, you will almost certainly have to prove due diligence in a court of law, and what is left of your guardrail will almost certainly come under the closest of inspections by Ministry of Labour inspectors. They will likely take more photos of your jerry-rigged guardrail, or what’s left of it, from more angles, than you can believe. They will measure every dimension of the material used, they will measure the height of every rail, and they will closely measure the distances between support posts. (Remember the maximum distance between any two adjacent posts of the guardrail system may not be greater than 2.4 metres apart in Ontario and I’m assuming the same in other provinces.)

How about weight load on the different pieces of your guardrail? They will test your handiwork, in the event of fatality or serious injury. In Ontario, the top rail must sustain a load of 675 newtons (152 lbs force) when applied in a lateral direction and a load of 450 (101 lbs force) newtons when applied in a vertical downward direction. Intermediate rails (midway between the top rail and toe kick board) must sustain a load of 450 newtons applied in a lateral or vertical downward direction. Then for the tow kick rail, a load of 225 newtons (51 lbs force) is applied in a lateral direction. O. Re g. 145/00, s. 14.


You don’t have to memorize all the physics, newtons, etc.  The ways to build proper guardrails are freely available online.

Well-built guardrail save lives. Make sure they meets the requirements of subsections 26.3 (2) to (8). O. Reg. 145/00, s. 12 of the Occupation Health & Safety Act (Ontario) and whatever requirements are needed in your province.

If you have questions on this article or safety issues, contact CARAHS immediately.

By providing education and training, CARAHS reduces your risk of fines, job site closures and prosecution under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act. We are independent of unions and government

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