Edge protection


Edge protection is used to prevent persons, objects or materials from falling. Areas where the likelihood of a fall exists and edge protection should be used include:

  • perimeters of working places
  • openings
  • where there is brittle material that cannot safely support the weight of a person


Edge protection may be temporary, for example during the course of construction. It may also be used in completed buildings, for example a permanent balustrade preventing a fall from a mezzanine floor.


Edge protection may involve:

  • a proprietary (engineered) system
  • materials to form a guardrail and/or physical barriers
  • erected scaffolding that supports a temporary edge-protection system
  • a combination of solutions


Integrity of the edge protection

Ensure edge protection is:

  • erected, used and maintained in accordance with its design information
  • regularly inspected by a competent person
  • inspected after a storm or other occurrence that could affect its purpose to prevent falls
  • free of any defects before use


Erecting edge protection

Persons erecting edge protection could potentially be exposed to the hazard of working at height until the installation is completed. Pre-planning, such as a task analysis and a hazard analysis, will identify the hazards involved and which controls can be implemented to prevent harm during the erection process. Installation workers must have hazard controls in place.



A guardrail is a barrier that is capable of physically preventing workers from falling. Guardrails are a group control that can be installed to protect workers from building edges, roof edges, building openings, lift shafts and other similar ducts with wall or floor openings.

A guardrail must be constructed to withstand the forces that are likely to be applied to it during as a result of the work. Temporary guardrails should generally be constructed using a proprietary metal tube and clip system.

General guardrail systems shall be between 900 mm and 1100 mm in height with a single mid rail located halfway between the work platform and the top rail. If there is a potential for tools or objects to be dropped during work a toe board should also be installed. Refer to the SARNZ Best Practice Guidelines for Scaffolding in New Zealand.

Guardrail systems that are installed to protect an edge of a sloping roof surface have specific design requirements because of the increased potential for workers to fall against them and the potential for a person to slip under the mid rail.

Guardrail systems for sloping roofs shall be configured to prevent a worker sliding between the roof surface and the rails. It is important that such systems are installed by a competent person. For guidance on the configuration of such edge protection systems refer to the standard AS/NZS 4994.2:2009 Temporary edge protection – Roof edge protection – Installation and dismantling.

If the slope of the roof exceeds 25 degrees, a roof ladder should be used in addition to perimeter guardrails (or a harness system) to reduce the likelihood of worker slipping.

Floor openings may also be protected by a fit-for-purpose, fully decked working platform. Work inside of shafts should, when practicable, be undertaken from a fully decked working platform; if this is not practicable, a harness system shall be used.

Barriers to restrict access (also known as bump rails)

Barriers should be used to cordon off elevated areas including roofs, balconies and open excavations where edge protection is not provided and people are not permitted access. The barriers should be secure and with access restricted to authorised people only. Signs should warn against entry to a cordoned-off area.

Barriers should be placed at least two metres in from any unprotected edge or opening. They should be highly visible and capable of remaining in place during adverse weather conditions.

Installing timber temporary edge protection

Temporary timber guardrails are sometimes used for edge protection. Timber edge protection shall be constructed by a competent person and extreme caution is required to ensure the appropriateness of all materials used. Construction must take into account the forces that are likely to be applied to the edge protection as a result of the work undertaken.