Roof Guardrail Systems: Why Base Plate Weight Matters

Loading Dock Fall Protection Reading Roof Guardrail Systems: Why Base Plate Weight Matters 7 minutes Next LORGATE™ – OSHA Compliant Loading Dock Safety Railing

Customers love non-penetrating roof guardrail systems for their many advantages: these rail and base plate systems make them a fall protection solution that’s portable, modular and infinitely configurable. But what many people may not know is that the base plates of a particular system affect everything from price to install time to the durability of your roof.

The guardrail base plate, typically steel or another metal such as iron, is the foundation of the guardrail system, connecting railings and grounding them against outward or downward force. Some companies believe that the heavier the base plate, the better or safer the system, but this is not true. Plus, overly heavy base plates have many other disadvantages when it comes to your roof as well as your employees.

Learn how the lighter weight base plates of our LORGUARD® portable guardrail system save you time and money while offering the same OSHA-compliant fall protection as systems with heavier bases.

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Lighter Base Plates Cost Less

The base plates for our LORGUARD® guardrail system weigh just 57 pounds. Other safety guardrail systems feature base plates that weigh 100 pounds or more, making them costlier to produce, purchase, ship and install.

Unlike with LORGUARD®, choosing systems with heavier base plates means that, right off the bat, you’d be paying more for a product without receiving additional value for the price. Heavier base plates don’t carry more weight with OSHA, they aren’t safer than other base plates, and they actually increase the load on your roof.

Lighter Base Plates are More Efficient to Install

Setting up the base plate pattern for your guardrail system is one of the most time-consuming steps during a portable guardrail installation. Heavier base plates add time (and cost) to the installation process, and they often require special equipment to load, transport and install them. Lighter bases set up 50% faster.

Our low-weight base plates are designed to speed up the installation process. They feature built-in, easy-grip handles, allowing installers to lift and move two LORGUARD® base plates simultaneously—something that can’t be done with base plates weighing 100 pounds or more.

Lighter Base Plates Mean Lower Overall Roof Loads

It stands to reason that the heavier each base plate is, the higher the overall roof load will be. This is especially true if your roof requires additional units to wrap around a roof hatch, HVAC unit, skylight or other rooftop feature.

If your application calls for an installation around a roof hatch or an HVAC unit, you might not be giving much thought to the higher roof loads associated with heavier base plates. For larger installations, additional weight becomes an important consideration. It is not uncommon to use 200-300 base plates to create full roof guardrail perimeters.

Roof load weight differential: 57-lb. base plates vs. 100-lb. base plates

This chart quantifies the additional strain placed on structural members and roofing materials when using heavier base plates. View the comparison between our 57-lb. base plates and the much heavier 100-lb. base plates of competitor systems.

 57-lb. base plates vs.100-lb. base plates chart

Protecting your roof’s warranty is simple when you use a non-penetrating guardrail system, but you should also consider the overall impact of the roof loads of the system you choose. It’s sensible to decrease the roof loads as much as possible to preserve the integrity of structural components while maintaining all necessary compliance. Through intelligent engineering and design efficiency, you can minimize rooftop load while maximizing fall protection through our LORGUARD® system. 

Lighter Base Plates Are Strong and OSHA-Compliant

With free-standing, non-penetrating guardrail systems, the base plate makes the connection between the roof and the railing section. Because the guardrail is not anchored or connected to structural members beneath the roof deck, one might assume a heavier base plate design is safer—but that’s not the case.

OSHA deems a guardrail system compliant when the top rail can withstand 200 pounds and the mid-rail can withstand 150 pounds of force applied from any direction. Most casual observers mistakenly assume the structural integrity of a guardrail system is primarily a function of railing design. Make no mistake, strong, steel railings are important, but without a good base plate design, the system will not provide an adequate margin of safety or comply with OSHA regulations.

Some manufacturers rely on sheer mass to create the appropriate safety factors, but with proper engineering, we are able to eliminate nearly half the weight of the base plate while maintaining OSHA compliance.

Lighter Base Plates Withstand Wind and Weather

Another way to express the strength and relative safety of roof guardrail is to assess the system’s ability to withstand sustained wind gusts. The engineering behind the LORGUARD® system allows our guardrail to stand up to 150 mph winds—even though our base plates are as much as 50% lighter than the competition. Plus, our base plates are rust- and corrosion-resistant, so they stand up to all weather as well as the wind.

Lighter Weight Base Plates Make Reconfigurations Easy

The beauty of temporary, portable, non-penetrating guardrail is that the system is easy to move and reconfigure. With heavier-weight bases, you face the same challenges in reconfiguration as you do with the initial installation – the time, cost, and sometimes special transport equipment required to move the modular guardrail system pieces when base plates weigh upwards of 100 pounds.

With lighter weight bases like those in the LORGUARD® system, moving and adjusting your portable guardrail fall protection as needed is just as simple as installing it the first time. This comes in especially handy for rooftop HVAC work, new construction jobs and other changes to your initial installation. It also allows you to repurpose existing equipment in new locations or for new applications quickly and for lower cost, giving you more flexibility. And they easily accommodate new additions such as safety gates for roof hatches.

Lighter Weight Base Plates Are Easier to Transport and Store

Similarly, lighter-weight base plates make it easier to transport and store your portable guardrail system as needed, depending on use and application. As with lowered freight costs for shipping these products new, you can experience lower costs when transporting your modular system to another work site or facility location as needed.

Choose the Efficient Guardrail Solution

Competing portable roof guardrail systems often share visual characteristics, thereby seeming equal. However, there are important differences in base plate designs that affect your bottom line and your timeline as well as your roofline.

Why pay to purchase, ship, and install heavier anchors when a lighter, better-engineered base plate provides the same margin of safety? At Unistrut Service Company, we believe lighter-weight base plates provide important efficiencies and savings, which is why we offer LORGUARD® safety guardrail, so you can ensure the highest quality fall protection at a sensible price, and within a workable time frame for installation.

Contact us to learn more about our portable guardrail systems or get in touch to request a quote.

 Advantages and disadvantages of base plate weight chart

When to choose a lighter base plate weight for your application

Lighter weight base plates are appropriate for the following guardrail considerations:

  1. Decreased roof loads
  2. Lowered materials and freight costs
  3. Decreased installation time
  4. OSHA-compliance
  5. Wind- and weather-resistance
  6. Increased portability