Everything You Need to Know About Commercial and Residential Guardrails

Everything You Need to Know About Commercial and Residential Guardrails

Wednesday, 26 August 2020 15:44

Western North Carolina is one of the most beautiful places to live in the country. We are so fortunate to be in the shadow of some of the tallest mountains in the Appalachians. From almost anywhere in the Asheville area, residents can look up to see beautiful views and vast vistas. Within a short drive of downtown, you can explore hundreds of waterfalls, hike and mountain bike on thousands of miles of trails, and enjoy true outdoor adventure.

The challenge for builders, business owners, and engineers is figuring out how to get around the mountains. As amazing as it is when home builders figure out how to construct houses in the mountains, the roads and parking lots are just as impressive. Many private neighborhood roads cling to the sides of mountains and climb significantly in elevation with a series of switchbacks. 


HOA’s, private neighborhoods and property, apartment homes, and commercial companies with parking lots all need to know what guardrails will work best for them. Furthermore, in some of our area manufacturing facilities and warehouses, the danger of falling may be indoors as much as it is outside. In this article, we want to walk you through what you need to know about guardrails.  

Private Roadway and Parking Lot Guardrails 

Guardrails can be a common sight in the Asheville area. With such a range of elevation throughout our area, many private roads need the added protection of guardrails to help keep drivers safe. Additionally, parking lots for businesses, condos, and apartments often have significant drop offs that necessitate guardrails. 

While guardrails are often made of galvanized steel, as seen on most highways, we also provide aesthetic wood timber options to use as a guide rail. Wood timber blends with natural surroundings better than steel and may be the right choice for your HOA, neighborhood, or homestead. 

What do you need to know about guardrails in the workplace?

When we think of “guardrails,” many of us just picture the galvanized steel rails on the sides of highways. These are intended to protect motorists who leave the roadway. But there is another kind of guardrail, and it is equally important. OSHA requires employers to install “personal fall protection systems” (e.g. guardrails and handrails) when workers are on surfaces that are four feet or higher from the ground, and there are further standards for contractors, builders, construction workers. They have the same job: to keep people safe.

There are two key acronyms to keep in mind:

  • OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). OSHA is charged with ensuring that workplaces are safe and healthy. They set and enforce standards, as well as provide training and education.
  • IBC (International Building Code). The IBC was developed by the ICC (International Code Council) in an effort to standardize codes across the building industry.

These standards do overlap in some ways, and they are applicable across the country.

When are guardrails required in the workplace?

Guardrails are designed to prevent falls, protect expensive equipment, and restrict access to specific areas. They need to be installed when there is a 30 inch or greater difference between an upper and lower surface, so you’ll see them along steps, landings, accessible roof spaces, and platforms.

It is also mandated that employers in the construction or “general industry” fields provide fall protection when:

  • The work area is more than 6 feet higher than the lower level
  • There is more than a 6-foot difference ground level and the work surface (e.g. a well or  pit)
  • The roof is accessible to workers; the IBC requires either a guardrail or another fall protection system (e.g. warning systems, safety nets)

Asheville Fence has extensive experience with guardrails for residential neighborhoods, apartment and condo parking lots, business parking areas, and indoor commercial use. We are happy to talk to you about installation requirements, load levels, and proper installation to ensure your site is code-compliant and safe. Contact us today