Why Outriggers Are Important

When considering a non-penetrating fall protection guard rail system, using outriggers or returns at the starts/ends potentially can reduce liability exposure if an incident occurs.  Specifying outriggers on each starts/ends of the railing systems provide the three important ways to help reduce a potential liability exposure if such an event occurred.

  1. Outriggers provide counterbalance along the entire length of railing system’s leading edge fall protection side ensuring an additional safety factor at every point along the system, including the start/ends, if the railing system is engaged.
  2. With the counterbalancing, the system is fully compliant with the OHSA requirement for a 200 lb. load the entire length along the leading-edge fall protection side leaving no question of compliance that could potentially pose liability exposure in the event of an incident.
  3. Outriggers define the protected space along the leading edge, guiding personnel to stay within that area or guiding them away from the edge fall protection when exiting the protected area.

 What are outriggers?

An outrigger, or a return, are standard safety handrails or continuations of ballasted safety guard rail placed perpendicular to the leading edge or danger side.  Outriggers apply the laws of physics to the guard rail’s ability to withstand a load or pressure on the danger side. When pressure is placed against guard rail, the ballasted bases along the bottom of the guard rail system may tilt or slide as the pressure is being applied. Since all the rail sections, including the outriggers, are all interconnected by locking them into the base receiver ports, they act as one continuous guard rail system.   The outrigger’s base that is placed perpendicular and back from the leading edge will counterbalance the load placed on the safety handrails. The further back that base is placed, the more counterbalance it can provide; we usually recommend 5ft rail sections if space allows.

Outriggers, when properly installed as described, provide the sufficient load resistance for making them fully compliant to OHSA standards for a safe working situation for industry personnel.  The outriggers ensure at every single point along the leading edge has a minimum 200-pound load capability - even the last few inches at the starts/ends.

There are exceptions when an outrigger may not be required:  when the safety railing system is a closed-loop type system with no starts/ends often used for temporary handrail situations; when the end of the safety guardrails is securely fastened to a solid building structure like a wall or ladder boarding rail properly secured to the building; or when the freestanding handrail is used not as a fall protection system.

Outriggers also help to define the protected working area behind the safety railing making it more obvious where personnel would be protected and helps keep distracted ones from moving to a non-protected area beyond the end of the safety handrail.   If an incident should occur away from the protected area, personnel would have to purposely go around a physical barrier at the ends.

Dakota Safety several drawings and sample images in our guard rail outrigger product data sheets for standard SafetyRail 2000 guard rails and for our SafetyRail 2000 Architectural series industrial pipe handrail which you can link to here. In addition, we produced a video explaining the guard rail outriggers and have sample images of steel guardrails systems with outriggers in our FAQ section. If you have any questions on why outriggers are required, or how they might be beneficial at your facility, we would welcome your call or message to discuss in detail.

Safety guard rail industrial pipe railing for fall protection outriggers

Dakota Safety is a specialized safety rail company dedicated to passive fall protection safety railing guardrail systems for roofs, mezzanines, and other elevated surfaces.  Dakota Safety can assist with non-penetrating fall protection guard rail, fixed modular guard rail or custom railing systems.  Be sure to also check our air purification / surface disinfection systems by CASPR (Continuous Air Surface Pathogen Reduction).  You can reach our customer service team directly at 866-503-7245 or info@dakotasafety.com

This blog was published on the Dakota Safety website August 2022

Architectural guardrailsCollapsible guardrailsD300 series guardrailsFall protectionFall safety 101General safetyGuardrailsNon-penetratingNon-penetrating guardrailsOshaPassive fall protectionPassive safetyRailing systemsRooftop safetySafety equipment

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