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HandWiki. Guard Rail. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 12 April 2024).
HandWiki. Guard Rail. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed April 12, 2024.
HandWiki. "Guard Rail" Encyclopedia, (accessed April 12, 2024).
HandWiki. (2022, November 07). Guard Rail. In Encyclopedia.
HandWiki. "Guard Rail." Encyclopedia. Web. 07 November, 2022.
Guard Rail

Guard rail, guardrails — or railings around properties and more generally outside of North America in some uses overlaps the industrial term "guide rail". They are a boundary feature and may be a means to prevent or deter access to dangerous or off-limits areas while allowing light and visibility in a greater way than a fence. Common shapes are flat, rounded edge, and tubular in horizontal railings, whereas tetraform spear-headed or ball-finialled are most common in vertical railings around homes. Park and garden railings commonly in metalworking feature swirls, leaves, plate metal areas and/or motifs particularly on and beside gates. High security railings (particularly if in flat metal then a type of palisade) may instead feature jagged points and most metals are well-suited to anti-climb paint. A handrail is less restrictive on its own than a guard rail and provides support.

ball-finialled handrail metalworking

1. Public Safety

Sign in Niagara Falls, Ontario, warning people not to climb over guard rail overlooking the Niagara River.
A handrail leading along a rocky creek crossing.
A cast iron grille of decorative railings interspersed by weighty columns in St Petersburg.

Many public spaces are fitted with guard rails as a means of protection against accidental falls. Any abrupt change in elevation where the higher portion is accessible makes a fall possible. Due to this responsibility and liability, rails are placed to protect people using the premises. Guardrails in the US are generally required by code where there is a drop of 30 inches (0.76 m) or more.

Examples of this are both architectural and environmental. Environmental guard rails are placed along hiking trails where adjacent terrain is steep. Railings may also be located at scenic overlooks.

Guard rails in buildings can be numerous, and are required by building codes in many circumstances. Handrails along stairways are common known as a balustrade where filled out below, and catwalks (a type of footbridge) and balconies are also lined with them. An example of a common residential guard rail (US) handrail (Brit.) is a wood railing around a deck or patio. In the US this is typically built on-site from pressure treated lumber thus featuring a simplistic design of vertical baluster spaced every 3.5" demonstrating compliance with Building Codes (Standards).

Cable railings typically use stainless steel cables strung horizontally. Glass balusters and glass panels open the view while still providing safety, as at the Grand Canyon Skywalk. With the increasing popularity of composite lumber for decking, manufacturers, like TimberTech are providing composite railing components. Wrought iron is another choice that is traditional and sturdy. Decorative examples are considered ironwork.

Building codes also require that no opening in a guard be of a size such that a 4" sphere may pass. There are three exceptions according to the 2003 International Building Code Section 1012.3 which allow openings to not exceed 8" or 21" depending on occupancy groups or special areas.

A major architect imaginitively used handrails representing social stability, Alvar Aalto.[1][2] The guard rails of an observation tower such as the Space Needle or Eiffel Tower become exaggerated to the point of becoming a fence or cage. This is also done on bridges and overpasses to prevent accidents and suicides.

2. Facility Safety Guardrail

Guardrail protecting expensive machinery.

Guardrails are used in a facility setting to protect a company's greatest assets which include their people and expensive equipment.

In the US, under OSHA Standard 1910.28(b)(15), employees who work on surfaces that are 4 feet (1.2 m) or higher off of the ground must have personal fall protection systems in place, such as handrails or guardrails.[3]

The strongest options are of industrial strength such as 4" Schedule 80, 6" Schedule 40 metal sleeved in Hi-Density Thermoplastic Polyethylene (thus maintenance-free). They will be mounted using a base-plate or cored into cement to enhance the strength.

Guardrail can also be constructed of 10 gauge high-tensile steel formed into a two-rib corrugated design with two secondary ribs. This guardrail is similar in appearance to guardrails in an outdoor setting, but is often used in facilities. Once it is impacted, it must be repaired and replaced.

Germany first patented strong guardrails. Guardrails, metallic corrosion-resistant high-security guardrails developed in the US, prevented the loss of life of tens of thousands. Several international standards have been developed for the production and installation of guardrails, such as EN1317, RAL, and RC6120.[4]

3. Automotive Safety