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If evergreen bushes span the entire length of a side of a porch, at about waist-height for someone on the porch, do the bushes remove the need for a railing? The difference being that a railing can be relied on to prevent a fall while bushes may prevent a fall.

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I would think yes. I was told the barrier is only needed to warn people, not to prevent. Bushes might even be better since nobody will lean on the bushes. –  avi Aug 5 '11 at 13:33
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@avi: I'm not so sure about that. Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 427:5) says that "it has to be strong, such that a person can lean on it and it won't fall." True that people don't usually lean on bushes, but if someone does, it won't break his fall. –  Alex Aug 5 '11 at 14:49
    
it's difficult to get through most hedge bushes. Guess it depends on the bushes and depends on the railing. –  avi Aug 5 '11 at 15:17
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up vote 6 down vote accepted

http://www.star-k.org/kashrus/kk-mitzvos-maakeh.htm

The ma'akeh does not have to be a solid wall, but any spaces should be sufficiently narrow that a child cannot fall through. The ma'akeh should be sufficiently sturdy that it will hold back a person who falls against it.

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