THE NAHB RESEARCH Center and the National Ornamental & Miscellaneous Metals Association (NOMMA) are partnering to conduct an independent study on guardrail safety in relation to young children. In contrast to past industry studies focused on jobsite fall protection, this study's goal is to analyze the pool of knowledge on climbability of guards, both interior and exterior, and to provide a study design for observing and documenting climbability.

Since the mid-1980s, a series of code changes have been proposed to enhance the safety of interior and exterior guards for buildings. Finally, in 2004 the International Code Council created the Code Technology Committee (CTC) to closely examine guard climbability as well as other complex issues. Supporting any code changes that provide proven safety benefits and believing code change proposals should be based on the best research evidence, NOMMA has been actively involved in this process as a member of the CTC Climbable Guard Study Group, and it competitively selected the NAHB Research Center to contribute objective, third-party information that will bring new perspective to the issues.

Working with Alan Hedge of Humanuse, an ergonomics research consulting company, the NAHB Research Center began a comprehensive review of existing data on factors affecting the climbability of specific guard designs, including height, spacing, orientation, size, and pitch. Human factors—such as the capabilities of children in different age groups, their physical abilities, cognitive skills, and temperament—are also a focus. The study will use child anthropometric data (comparative measurements of the human body and its parts) to guide the development of various guard configurations.

The NAHB Research Center will conclude the initial phase of the study in late August and publish a white paper summarizing key findings. Later phases will include developing a computer model analysis for the project.