It was brought to our attention by a well-known large general contractor that OSHA has been issuing citations to construction companies for installing metal stud guardrails that are made up of light gauge metal studs. According to an OSHA interpretation letter that was sent to us by the general contractor, metal studs can be used as guardrails, however, they need to meet the OSHA requirements for guardrails. The metal studs can't have sharp edges or corners which can cause lacerations and more importantly, they need to be able to withstand 200 lbs of outward and downward force on the top-rail and 150 lbs of outward and downward force on the mid-rail. The big issue with light gauge metal studs is that they might not meet the outward and downward force requirement especially if there is a kink in the metal stud or if the light gauge metal stud is spanning a wide opening such as 4' feet or more. A light gauge metal stud, especially one with a kink in it could fail causing a person to fall and sustain a serious injury or fatality.
Below is an actual photo of a light gauge metal stud guardrail that a company was issued an OSHA citation for. The issues found in the photo are: #1- on the right side of the photo, the top-rail is protruding out past the guardrail stanchion post as to where a worker could walk by and get snagged on it causing a laceration. #2 - there are sharp corners (regardless of the top-rail protruding out) that would need to be bent downward/inward so the sharp corners are not exposed. #3 - this is a light gauge stud which according to OSHA, may not keep a worker from falling as the top-rail may not be meeting the 200 lbs of outward and downward force OSHA requirement especially if the stud has a kink anywhere on it.
The following is what we would need to do if we are installing a guardrail. We can you non-defective, wood 2 x 4's as our top-rail and mid-rail. We can use metal studs, however, they must be 18 gauge or thicker, have no kinks or defects and we would be required to not allow the top and mid-rails to protrude out past the stanchion posts. Lastly, we would need to bend the corners downward/inward so that no one is exposed to sharp edges which can cut them.
Please keep this in mind the next time you are working around a metal stud guardrail or if you are installing a metal stud guardrail; for your protection and for those performing at your project. Following these procedures will help keep us in line with our Safety Mission Statement which is: "Everyone Goes Home Alive and in the Same Condition as They Arrived; Your Loved Ones Count On It!"
If you have any questions, please contact our Safety Director, Peter Graham at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a Safe Day!