Background & Use of Toe Boards

When working from heights, commonly in the roofing and/or construction industry, there is a constant need to safely and efficiently perform site work. Part of that process includes using a variety of systems and protocols to mitigate unsafe work environments. Toe boards (also called toe kicks) are a part of that system that we will be further focusing on in this article.

What is a Toe-board?

A toeboard is a physical barrier that runs along a fall edge that prevents people and objects from falling to a lower surface. Traditionally, toe boards are made of wood (most commonly Douglas Fir) 2’x4’s that match the length of the guardrails they are associated with. While wooden toe boards are still used in some applications, many toeboards are made of metal for increased strength and longevity.

Guardrails midrails and toeboards
Scaffold toe board

Toeboards and Fall Prevention: Workers and Equipment

For people, toe boards are often an essential safety device for anyone working on flat and low slope roofs. They provide a barrier between the worker and the fall edge of the roof, helping to prevent them from slipping or sliding off. Toe boards should always be used when working near a roof’s edge (unless there is a parapet wall) because they can help prevent slips and falls that could lead to serious injury or death. Additionally, toe boards can be used with guard rails to block off hazardous areas on a roof, such as skylights or large holes.

Roofing toe boards
Toe boards must be used on platforms that are

Equipment and tools are also essential components on construction projects. While they are not the primary focus for fall protection they can present a significant safety hazard if not managed properly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, every day in the US there are more than 115 OSHA recordable events related to “struck by falling object” incidents.

On average there are 42,000+ “struck by falling object” OSHA recordable events in the US annually

Common Items that Fall from Heights

Building & Construction:

  • Building Materials
  • Construction Debris
  • Power Tools
  • Wrenches
  • Chisels
  • Circular Saws
  • Hammers
  • Crowbar
  • Disc Sanders
  • Ladders
  • Nail Gun
  • Pliers
  • Level

Maintenance & Operations:

  • Plywood Sheets
  • Piping
  • Drills
  • Measuring Tape*
  • Stainless Steel mugs
  • Paint Cans
  • Buckets
  • Satellite Dishes
  • Screwdriver
  • Keychain
  • Communication Equipment
  • Mobile phones
  • Caulk Gun

The importance of using toeboards when working from heights should not be overlooked. A small tool like a measuring tape weighing only a pound can cause serious harm or death if it falls from heights. Read Gary Anderson’s Jersey City Construction Site story in the New York Times

Toeboard osha tape measure

Common Areas & Applications for Toe Kick Boards

  • Rooftops & Roof Edges
  • Scaffolding
  • Elevated Work Platforms
  • Catwalks
  • Low Slope Roofs
  • Mezzanines
  • Machine Platforms
  • Crossover Ladders & Stairs
Toe-boards must be at least 3 inches high

Tips to Use in Conjunction with Toe Boards

  • Having onsite tool storage areas allows workers to easily locate and store tools when they are not in use. This reduces the amount of tools that need to be taken out into the field, reducing potential drop hazards while also improving job efficiency. Additionally, consider utilizing tool tethers so that if a tool is dropped, it can be safely secured before it hits someone.

  • It is important to not underestimate wind strength on rooftop construction projects. If you’re building something at a high elevation, expect to deal with more intense winds than if you were building at a lower altitude. Fastening down items like plywood that lack ballast is especially important in these situations as they are prone to being blown away, hitting people & property and causing damage.

  • When assessing potential drop zones, consider the direct drop of tools along with the ricochet effect. Dropped tools can cause serious injury or death if they strike workers below. Ricocheting tools may reach unexpected areas below and increase the probability of harm to those in the vicinity. To prevent these hazardous scenarios, it is important to examine the area for potential objects that can be struck and cause ricochet. Furthermore, any tool drops should have buffers in place to ensure that no one standing below will be injured in the event of a drop.

Toe Boards & OSHA Standards

Below is our visual guide which outlines some key points related to toeboards and OSHA standards (1917 & 1910). We hope you find it helpful in keeping your workplace safe for everyone. Please note that we’ve created this content on workplace safety to help you better understand your responsibilities under OSHA. While this content provides general guidelines, specific requirements may vary depending upon the industry, location and size of your organization. We highly recommend organizations seek professional advice tailored to their unique situations and needs. As a resource, feel free to contact the fall protection experts at Safety Rail Company to assist you with your questions regarding your facility.

Osha toe kick requirements

1917.112(d) – Toeboards. Toeboards shall be provided when employees below could be exposed to falling objects such as tools. Toeboards shall be at least 3½ inches (8.9 cm) in height from top edge to floor level, and be capable of withstanding a force of 50 pounds (222 N) applied in any direction. Drainage clearance under toeboards is permitted.

1910.29(k)(1) – The employers must ensure toeboards used for falling object protection

1910.29(k)(1)(i) – Are erected along the exposed edge of the overhead walking-working surface for a length that is sufficient to protect employees below.

1910.29(k)(1)(ii) – Have a minimum vertical height of 3.5 inches (9 cm) as measured from the top edge of the toeboard to the level of the walking-working surface.

1910.29(k)(1)(iii) – Do not have more than a 0.25-inch (0.5-cm) clearance or opening above the walking-working surface.

1910.29(k)(1)(iv) – Are solid or do not have any opening that exceeds 1 inch (3 cm) at its greatest dimension.

1910.29(k)(1)(v) – Have a minimum height of 2.5 inches (6 cm) when used around vehicle repair, service, or assembly pits. Toeboards may be omitted around vehicle repair, service, or assembly pits when the employer can demonstrate that a toeboard would prevent access to a vehicle that is over the pit.

1910.29(k)(1)(vi) – Are capable of withstanding, without failure, a force of at least 50 pounds (222 N) applied in any downward or outward direction at any point along the toeboard.


The employer must ensure:


Where tools, equipment, or materials are piled higher than the top of the toeboard, paneling or screening is installed from the toeboard to the midrail of the guardrail system and for a length that is sufficient to protect employees below. If the items are piled higher than the midrail, the employer also must install paneling or screening to the top rail and for a length that is sufficient to protect employees below.

*If you would like to learn more about these OSHA standards or how to implement them check out our article Fall Protection Planning – Navigating Through Workplace Safety with the Experts at Safety Rail Company

Toeboard FAQs

How High are Toe Boards?

Generally speaking, Toeboards shall be at least 3½ inches (8.9 cm) in height from top edge to floor level.

What does “a standard guardrail system shall be provided with toe boards” mean?

It means that all open sides/end locations where persons and material are required or permitted to pass or work under the elevated platform, or where needed to prevent persons from falling from the elevated platform; such as on unprotected roof edges (w/o parapet walls), scaffolds and work platforms.

How to Install Toe Kick Boards?

Installing toe kick boards is an important part of creating a safe environment on your roof, work platform and crossover ladders. Toe kick boards provide the first 3.5 inches of protection to safety rails, making them more stable and secure for workers. Here are the steps you need to take when installing toe kick boards:

  1. Measure the area where you want to install the toe kick board. Make sure to account for any slopes or irregularities in the roof surface.
  1. Cut the toe kick board to fit your measurements. Use a saw that is designed for cutting wood, metal, or composite materials. Alternatively you can purchase a variety of safety rails with toe kicks already integrated into the safety rail system.
  1. Drill pilot holes where needed and attach the toe kick board using screws or lag bolts. Make sure that all necessary hardware is in place and secure.
  1. Connect your safety rails to the toe kick board, making sure that they are properly aligned and evenly spaced. Secure the safety rails with appropriate fasteners.
  1. Check all connections to ensure everything is secure and safe before allowing workers to use them. Make sure to periodically check that all connections remain secure.



Following these steps will ensure that your toe kick board and safety rails are properly installed and provide the necessary protection for workers on your roof. With proper installation, you can have peace of mind knowing that your employees are safe from falls and other hazards.

Handrail kick plate requirements

How to Remove Toe Kick Boards?

Now that we know how to install toe-boards, let’s look at how to remove them. Removing toe boards is fairly straightforward and can be done with a few simple tools.

  1. Begin by removing all hardware from the toe board. This includes screws, lag bolts, or other fasteners that hold the board in place. If you purchase safety rails with integrated toe boards you have a few options. If welded on, use the safety rail for another application. If the toe kick uses a collar style system, remove the connector pin and feel free to use the toe kick on another project or fall protection area.
  1. Carefully lift and remove the toe-board from its position. If it is too heavy to lift or stuck, use a pry bar or crowbar to loosen it from its fastenings.
  1. Dispose of the toe-board according to local regulations and/or safety requirements.


Removing toe boards is an important part of any job involving safety rail systems. By following these steps and using appropriate tools, you can make certain that your toe boards are properly removed and disposed of, while also ensuring the safety of workers.

Thank you for reading and stay safe!

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