Guard rail or guardrail, sometimes referred to as guide rail or railing, is a system designed to keep people or vehicles from (in most cases unintentionally) straying into dangerous or off-limits areas. A handrail is less restrictive than a guard rail and provides both support and the protective limitation of a boundary.
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 are generally required by code where there is a drop of 30" 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. Guard rails along stairways are common, and catwalks and balconies are also lined with them. An example of a common residential guard rail is a wood railing around a deck or patio. This is typically built on-site from pressure treated lumber, featuring a simplistic design of vertical baluster spaced every 3.5" to comply with building code.
Other guard rail construction options are available. 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. Wrought iron is another choice that is traditional and sturdy.
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.
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.
The strongest guardrail option is utilizing a manufacturer who produces industrial strength guardrail. This guardrail is constructed out of 4" Schedule 80 6" Schedule 40. It is then sleeved in Hi-Density Thermoplastic Polyethylene which makes it maintenance free. It can 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.
Guardrails were being used for the first time in Germany. Guardrails, metallic corrosion-resistant high-security guardrails developed in the US, prevented the loss of life of tens of thousands.