When you own or manage a warehouse or industrial facility, you may use mezzanines in the facility to maximize the floor-space and add an additional level between the ground floor and ceiling. While mezzanines can be highly beneficial, they are also fall hazards that must be taken into account.
When a worker is on a mezzanine, there’s always a risk of a fall. Any personnel in the vicinity will also be at risk from falling debris, equipment, and tools. Despite the dangers that exist when using a mezzanine, there are several steps facility managers can take to minimize risks, which include installing protective equipment like railings and safety gates.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains fall protection regulations, which can be applied to mezzanines when they are used in industrial settings. In this guide, you’ll learn more about the safety and installation requirements that OSHA has set for mezzanines and what devices you can use to meet these requirements.
What is a Mezzanine?
A mezzanine is a highly common sub-floor that can be installed in any type of building, the primary of which include factories and warehouses. Local building codes will typically include basic guidelines for mezzanines that allow you to determine if the structure will be considered an intermediate level or an entirely different story in the building.
OSHA Mezzanine Installation Requirements
In accordance with section 505.2 of the International Building Code, a mezzanine is considered part of the story below it. These mezzanines don’t need to directly contribute to the number of stories in a building or the building area when identifying how tall a building is. However, the square footage of the mezzanine must be included when you’re determining the total fire area.
As long as a mezzanine complies with Section 505.2, it gives you an additional level in your building without being considered another story. Make sure that the mezzanine that’s selected for your building is constructed with consistent materials.
The height below and above a mezzanine must be at least seven feet. When installing a mezzanine, the amount of space it takes up needs to be 1/3 of the room’s floor area or less. There are a few exceptions to this rule that allow mezzanines to be larger depending on the type of construction that was used to make the building and if the building is outfitted with a sprinkler system.
Means of Egress
The means of egress for a mezzanine must adhere to the provisions listed in Chapter 10. Mezzanines perform like a space or room that consists of an occupant load. The occupant load needs to have the proper parameters. The number of exits available with the mezzanine depends on the size of it. For smaller mezzanines that serve less than 49 occupants, only one stairway exist is required. Larger mezzanines require at least two.
Mezzanines should be kept open to the room that it’s located in. The main exception is for walls that are less than 42 inches tall. The mezzanine could also be enclosed if the occupant load is 10 or less. The same is true if there are two or more exits that lead out of the area.
The scaffolding system components that are used to create a mezzanine are assigned a maximum weight rating by the manufacturer. OSHA safety requirements state that the platform needs to support its own weight as well as four times or more of the intended load. The total load includes building materials, equipment, tools, and workers.
All scaffolding platforms must be planked with as little a gap as possible. The space between the uprights and the planks should not be larger than one inch.
Suspension and Supported Platforms
Suspension scaffolds consist of platforms that are suspended by cables or ropes from a crane, derrick, or rooftop. The primary type of scaffolding system is a two-point system, which works like the scaffold that a window washer uses. These platforms must be secured to something to keep swaying at bay. Any worker who performs tasks on these platforms needs to wear gear that’s designed to protect them from falls.
The scaffolds are supported by a combination of frames, legs, crossbeams, and posts. Smaller ones are constructed with wheels for greater portability and mobility. OSHA requirements state that these systems should be built on a solid surface that’s braced or leveled to minimize movement. In the event that the platform is higher than 10 feet, fall-protection gear and guardrails are required.
Workers need to be able to access the platform in a safe and secure manner. Supported scaffolding systems must have attachable stairs, ramps, and ladders. Keep in mind that workers are restricted from climbing up to the platform by using the framework.
The fall protection that you can use in your facility includes fall-arrest systems and guardrails. When a worker is on the platform, he or she must wear a lifeline and harness. The lifeline has to be secured completely in a separate area from any scaffolding support lines. In the event that the scaffolding falls, any workers on the platform will be safe. Guardrails should be used if the platform is higher than 10 feet off the ground.
Employees need to be trained before they work on a mezzanine by personnel who are qualified to minimize and detect hazards. Any employee who assembles, maintains, or repairs the scaffolding system must be trained by a qualified instructor.
OSHA Mezzanine Installation Fall Protection Requirements
Because of the risks associated with mezzanines, OSHA has put mezzanine installation fall protection requirements in place. These regulations require all employers to protect their employees from fall risks that regularly occur on platforms that are at least four feet off the ground. Facility managers are also required to oversee the maintenance and inspection of fall protection systems. These systems can include everything from harnesses and access control gates to guardrails and self-retracting lifelines.
The top edge of a guardrail safety system needs to be at least 42 inches above the floor. The guardrail should also be capable of withstanding up to around 200 pounds of impact from an upward or downward direction. Additional guardrail protection requirements include safety gates, high-platform barriers, and handrails.
Covering of Holes
All elevated surface openings above or in mezzanines may be fall risks to those working on the platform. These openings include access points and skylights. Employers are required by OSHA to offer guardrails or covers in these areas, the latter of which can seal the openings. If you use a cover, it needs to withstand a considerable amount of force and should be properly secured to make sure it can’t be removed accidentally.
Workers are tasked with carrying raw materials, finished products, and equipment to mezzanines on a regular basis, which is why employers are required to provide fixed ladders that are at least 24 feet tall. Ladder safety systems that include a ladder cage, connectors, harness lanyard, body harness, carrier, and safety sleeve must also be provided.
Employee Safety Training
Employers must offer a strict training program to their employees to make sure that everyone understands how to be safe when working on or around a mezzanine. Along with improving worker safety, implementing this training program also allows you to avoid OSHA penalties.
Falling Object Protection
Employees who work below the mezzanines need to be protected from the risk of falling objects. Employers need to obtain and install equipment like toeboards around the mezzanine. Toeboards are vertical barriers that can be mounted along a surface’s edge. When installed correctly, workers should benefit from overhead protection. All toeboards need to have 3.5 inches or more of vertical height.
Mezzanine Fall Safety Devices
Before selecting fall safety devices for your workplace, make sure that they have been OSHA-approved.
Pivoting Mezzanine Gates
Pivoting mezzanine gates have been deemed compliant with OSHA, ANSI, and IBC regulations. These devices protect against all surface edges and are built from carbon steel. A single pallet comes with a measurement of 62″ W x 42″ H. These gates are easy to install with the most basic tools.
Clear Height Mezzanine Safety Gates
Fall protection can also be provided with a clear height mezzanine safety gate that’s OSHA-compliant. This component provides counterbalanced lift gates as well as a safety gate that keeps employees from tripping and falling over any edged surface. Similar fall safety devices include:
- Harnesses and lanyards
- Anchorage connectors
- Vertical lift gates
- Loading dock gates
Additional Mezzanine Fall Safety Best Practices
Along with keeping employees trained and having fall protection systems installed, you should also take steps to keep the mezzanine area safe.
The right amount of lighting will keep your workforce from falling and should increase productivity.
There should never be any holes, dust, or liquid spills on the mezzanine, all of which increase the risk of falls. The mezzanine floor needs to consist of a uniform level without any variations that could induce tripping.
Regular inspections must be performed to make sure that the safety systems haven’t become broken, worn down, cracked, or loose. During this evaluation, the inspector you hire will also make sure that the load capacity hasn’t been exceeded.
Your mezzanine should be cleaned frequently to keep dangerous dust or debris buildup at bay.
Why Choose QMH?
Whether you need to have a new mezzanine installed or would like to build an entirely new warehouse, our team at QMH can help you select the warehouse solutions and supplies that promote long-term success. If you have questions about mezzanines and how they can be used within your warehouse, call us today to get the answers you’re looking for.