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Improperly Designed Handrails and Guardrails

We rely on guardrails for safety in so many settings, from the roads we drive to our apartment buildings to our workplaces. Guardrails and handrails provide us with barriers from dangers, but what happens when it is the guardrails designed to protect us that actually cause us harm?

Roughly 20 percent of falls cause serious injuries, ranging from fractured bones to serious brain injuries, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Handrails play a major part in preventing falls, as long as those handrails are reliable. Let’s take a look at just a few ways that handrails and guardrails can fail us.

Handrail/Guardrail Flaws

Problems with guardrails and handrails can result from poor design, poor installation, and improper maintenance, among many other factors. Be on the lookout for:

  • Broken Handrails
  • Loose or Unstable Handrails
  • Missing pieces (like screws) in Handrails
  • Low Handrails (which can cause tripping or fail to provide stability)
  • High Handrails (which can cause injury or fail to provide stability)
  • Jagged Edges of Handrails

The absence of a handrail or guardrail can also lead to serious injuries or falls. While most public places are equipped with rails to assist pedestrians, some steps are not equipped with proper railing, leading to an increased likelihood of falls and injuries. Any area that is elevated or located on a higher floor of a building should also be equipped with a guardrail to act as a protective barrier.

Injuries Caused by Faulty Handrails

Many injuries caused by defective or poorly designed handrails may come as the result of a fall, slip or trip. Some examples of these injuries may include:

Faulty Design and Proper Placement

Another important consideration for manufacturers and builders who install handrails is using the appropriate dimensions of the railing in relation to the setting in which it will be placed. For example, if a balcony is equipped with a guardrail that is too low, it will not only fail to protect a person from falling over that balcony, it could actually cause a person to topple over the guardrail.

It’s for this very reason that there are certain guardrail requirements put in place to protect people from falling. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration goes into specifics about the height requirements for workplace guardrails to ensure that workers aren’t susceptible to falling on-the-job. In addition to these requirements, there are specific load-bearing requirements for guardrails used in the workplace. If a rail is flimsy or prone to collapsing when it is placed under a small amount of pressure, it can pose huge risks to workers.

We rely on guardrails and handrails more than you might think. The next time you walk out on a balcony or walk up a steep flight of stairs, pay close attention to the rail that is installed and how important it is for ensuring the safety of so many people. If you ever notice a broken or dangerous rail, be sure to notify the property owner, supervisor or relevant contact as soon as possible. Faulty railing can pose a serious risk to anyone, from the elderly to small children.