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When Customized Guardrail is an Ideal Fall Protection Solution

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Commercial and industrial grade HVAC units used to keep personnel and sensitive electronic equipment cool can sometimes be incredibly tall. This creates a situation in which there is no safe way to access the top of the units for maintenance work.

Per OSHA 1910 – accessing the top of these HVAC units – or for that matter, ANY equipment taller than 4 feet – requires fall protection to protect a worker who is on top of the equipment.

The size and configuration of commercial HVAC systems vary widely, so these types of applications typically require a custom solution.    Whether your HVAC equipment is at ground level or located on a rooftop, Diversified Fall Protection can design and install a fall protection solution to keep your personnel safe and your facility in compliance with all OSHA regulations.

As you can see in the first photo below, before the guardrail system’s installation, there is no safe way to access the top of the units.  Accessing the top of the HVAC system required a person to:

  • ascend a 12-foot ladder
  • while carrying heavy tools
  • then step to the top level of the HVAC unit

Clearly an unsafe situation.

Because periodic maintenance is performed on the top of the HVAC unit, that is a work platform with unprotected leading edges.  With a working height greater than 4 feet, some means of fall protection is required per OSHA 1910.

One of the challenges presented by designing fall protection solutions for commercial HVAC systems is working with different manufacturer sizes – therefore a “standardized” solution can’t be created.

Another issue to contend with during installation is the presence of pipe, valve, and conduit obstructions.

In the photo below, you can also see that the width or distance between the base of each unit and the edge of the concrete slab it sits on is different.

All these factors point toward a custom designed fall protection guardrail for each installation.

OUR SAFETY SOLUTION:

DFP engineers designed a modular system with removable sections of the guardrail when servicing portions of the HVAC units not at heights over 4 feet.  Our customizations allow a worker to remove mid-rails within each section of guardrail to service sections of the unit from ground level.

The finished design includes ladder access, complete enclosure of the top work platform, and a toe board system to prevent tools from falling and striking personnel below.  If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll note that on this side of the unit, we had enough width to anchor the system with portable base plates.

An access platform and swing gate protects workers as they transition from the ladder to the top of the HVAC system.

On this side, space limitations required that we anchor receivers to the concrete slab. Each section of the guardrail connects to the next with Kee clamps secured with set screws.  Rails that may obstruct maintenance operations are temporarily removable.

The top of the work area is protected by 1.5” diameter steel guardrail with a top rail height at 42” and a mid-rail height of 21” per OSHA regulations.

The size and configuration of commercial HVAC systems vary widely, so these types of applications typically require a custom solution. Whether your HVAC equipment is at ground level or located on a rooftop, Diversified Fall Protection can design and install a fall protection solution to keep your personnel safe and your facility in compliance with all OSHA regulations.

To learn more about fall protection or to request a site visit, contact the safety experts at Diversified Fall Protection for further assistance.

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Did You Know?

It is the responsibility of the employer to provide a safe, OSHA compliant work environment for all workers?