December 11, 2018 at 10:32 am #3556760
I have designed a few raised patios where there are swimming pools and views where we have tried to limit guardrails interfering with views. IBC 2015 is in play in my state of Massachusetts. Section R312.1 states that 36″ guards are required where the “walking surface’ is horizontally within 36″ of an adjacent grade of greater than 30″ lower. I have successfully placed planting beds between the retaining wall and patio to gain the 36″ minimum distance to the drop off in many towns. However, there is a new building commissioner in one town where I have such a design and is suggesting that the top of wall is a walking surface and is requiring a 36” guardrail.
Has anyone run into this before? I can’t find a definition of “walking surface” in he IBC. I am hoping that I can get the commissioner to deem the wall not a walking surface by blocking access with thick low shrubbery. My sense is that the new commissioner does not want to compromise as he may be trying to establish himself as the “new sheriff in town”, although I don’t know that to be certain. My hope is that someone can point me toward some documentation that would support my contention that the isolated top of retaining wall does not require a guardrail.
Thanks for reading through all of that.
AndrewDecember 29, 2018 at 2:13 pm #3556842
This is a really interesting topic (more frustrating for you I am sure). My first question to the commissioner would be, is it reasonable for pedestrians to use the top of the wall as a path? “Walking surface” is usually used in conjunction with a required egress point or to talk about a accessible path. Now, if any retaining wall is taller than 4 feet the OSHA rules kick in and you’d need the 42″ ht fall protection fence. Has this been built yet?
-BentleyDecember 29, 2018 at 4:08 pm #3556843
Since there is no definition of “walking surface” this Building Commissioner is defining it as “anything that you can walk on”, so we are going to add planters in front of the wall to reduce the drop to <30″ where we can and add railings where we can’t. Fortunately the homeowner is fine with dealing with it. …. I’m just not sure about the other job with a similar situation across town is going to go – totally a different homeowner personality.
Three other building commissioners in different towns did accept a planting bed as creating the 36″ separation of walking surface and did not require the railing.
The high side of the wall is no longer a workplace, so OSHA is not an issue at this time. Also it is a 6′ drop in a construction zone rather than 4′ in an industrial work space. However, I am having a hard time finding a horizontal distance to when that applies to people not using construction machinery (6′ parallel, 10′ perp.).December 29, 2018 at 4:43 pm #3556844
That seems crazy for him to be able to apply the code that way. Maybe as you begin to establish a working relationship with him you can convince him otherwise?
As far as OSHA is concerned, you are correct that it’s a 6′ drop for construction but it’s 4′ drop for general industry. Unless I am misunderstanding what you mean by “industrial work space”, general industry covers a wide range of activities but doesn’t include construction, maritime, and some others. I always have a fall protection fence for ret. walls at the 4′ level in anticipation of landscape maintenance activities. Obviously, I could be wrong.December 29, 2018 at 4:51 pm #3556845
I’m not sure about that either when applied to landscape maintenance. I think there are some loopholes where other restraints are accepted, but you and I know that residential landscape maintenance companies think OSHA is an island in the Pacific. It will only be a 29″ drop on this job anyway. Thanks for engaging in the discussion.December 29, 2018 at 4:56 pm #3556846
Haha, that’s very true. I hope you are able to wrangle the new building commissioner.
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