The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has implemented regulations for railings to prevent worker injury or death. These safety standards cover all types of guardrails and have specific regulations for their construction and use.
Railing Usage Requirements
For any area with a floor or wall opening (such as a stairway or access hole), a standard railing is required on the exposed side of the structure. Ladderway floor openings are specifically mentioned. Construction sites with vertical drops of 6 feet or more may use a guardrail system instead of other OSHA-approved safety measures.
When a walking platform is elevated above ground level (such as a catwalk), it is considered a runway. Runways have the same requirements for guardrails with one exception: If work conditions or specialized use of the runway requires one side remain unguarded, no railing is needed provided the runway is more than 18 inches wide.
Cable Railing Standards
OSHA regulations state that cable railings must have a smooth top rail at 42 inches above the floor that is able to withstand at least 200 pounds of pressure from any direction. Approximately halfway between this height and the floor, there must be an intermediate rail that can withstand 150 pounds of force.