Safety Guarding 101

Understanding Safety Barriers: Types, Risks, and Best Practices


Jason Kerkhof

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June 12, 2024

Safety barriers are an essential component of workplace safety, serving to protect individuals from hazards and prevent accidents. These barriers come in various forms, each designed to address specific safety needs in different environments. However, while they are critical for safety, improper use can introduce new risks. Understanding the types of barriers, their potential dangers, and the correct practices around their deployment is crucial for maintaining a safe working environment.


Types of Safety Barriers

Barrier Guard/Fencing: Often used around machinery or dangerous areas to prevent access. These barriers are designed to be robust and are usually made from materials like metal or heavy-duty plastic.

Hand Rails: Installed alongside stairs, ramps, and other walkways to provide stability and support to prevent falls. Handrails are a must in areas where balance is compromised.

Guard Rails: Similar to handrails but typically used to protect people from falling from heights, such as on platforms, walkways, and around the edges of elevated areas.

Kick Boards: Kick boards are located low to the ground and can be an effective way to prevent vehicles from traveling in an area, or make it difficult to roll things like a dolly in. It will also provide a barrier for people so they are aware that they are entering a hazardous area.

Windows: In the context of safety barriers, windows allow visibility through physical barriers and can be crucial for avoiding operational blind spots around heavy machinery and other segregated areas.


Potential Dangers of Safety Barriers

While safety barriers are inherently protective, incorrect implementation or poor maintenance can lead to other hazards:

Blocking Exits and Safety Signs: Barriers must not obstruct emergency exits or safety signage. All escape routes and safety information should be clear and accessible at all times.

Trip Hazards: Improperly installed or poorly designed barriers can themselves become trip hazards, especially if elements such as posts or fixings protrude into walkways.

Pinch Points and Blind Spots: Barriers might create pinch points where workers can get caught between the barrier and machinery or other objects. Additionally, if not properly planned, solid barriers can lead to blind spots, increasing the risk of accidents.

Accessibility Issues: Barriers should not hinder the movement of workers, especially those with disabilities. Consideration must be given to ensure compliance with accessibility standards.


Training and Proper Use

Training is vital to ensure that workers understand how to interact safely with and around barriers. They need to know how to:

·        Navigate around barriers without compromising their own safety or that of their coworkers.

·        Properly replace or reinstall temporary barriers after accessing restricted areas to maintain safety integrity.

·        Recognize and report potential issues with barriers, such as damage or improper placement.


Visibility and Maintenance

Barriers must be clearly visible. High-visibility colors, reflective materials, and adequate lighting can help ensure that they are easy to see. Regular maintenance checks are crucial to ensure that barriers remain in good condition and continue to provide effective protection.


Safety Benefits of Barriers

The primary benefit of safety barriers is the physical protection they offer—keeping personnel safe from mechanical hazards, falls, and other workplace risks. By effectively separating people from hazards, barriers help reduce the likelihood of accidents and injuries. Additionally, the psychological reassurance of a visible safety measure can improve worker confidence and productivity.



Safety barriers are a fundamental aspect of industrial and workplace safety, serving to prevent direct contact with hazards and manage the flow of movement within potentially dangerous environments. However, their effectiveness is dependent on proper design, installation, and maintenance, along with adequate training for all personnel. By understanding the different types of barriers and the potential risks associated with them, organizations can implement these protective measures more effectively, ensuring a safer workplace for everyone involved.