By Terry Griner
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In 2018, there were 320 fatal falls to a lower level out of 1,008 construction fatalities, according to an OSHA Report.
Consider some of the "aha" moments our customers have as they dig into the design & production of safety mezzanines, platforms and stairways. While sometimes they seem obvious, the small things can catch you by surprise mid-project as you think about the application.
1. How many people will be standing on it, and with what amount of weight at one time?
The weight limit for the mezzanine above, is 700 lbs. and is the equivalent of three people. We used 2" square by 1/ 4" wall thickness steel. Constant vibrations from external forces and uneven weight loads can also impact platforms and their ultimate, weight-bearing capabilities. This platform's function (design) is a one-person operation where the operator will be leaning over the side of the platform to rivet panels onto the side of a travel trailer on the production line.
2. Which direction will traffic be going?
If the platform isn’t wide enough to have two people walking side by side, crossing the platform will be the challenge.
3. Should a chain or a railing be used to stop traffic (gate with springs for self-closing)?
As you can see, this platform was designed with a gate opening the "right way," preventing a fall towards the stairs. If the gate opened the other way, a trip or a misstep could cause the operator to push the gate open and fall off of the platform and down the stairs.
4. What are safety concerns on the back end and below the mezzanine?
Having a chain instead of a second handrail across the top of the platform can reduce cost with just the addition of hooks that are welded or removable.
Increased height of the floor can also allow for additional storage and activity below the platform. It is always important to consider the placement of angles and posts that might block those other useful activities.
5. What is the range of heights that people will be and how far will they be reaching?
One of the "aha" moments our customers often have is making the platform or mezzanine railings too high or low. The design of this mezzanine had the average 38" to 42" rail height, which is OSHA minimum heights.
Say a person is 6' or 5’10" tall. This height might be too low based on the variance of their height and have them reaching too far over the railing. A person standing next to the fencing and working on the mezzanine to install the product might be tempted to ignore the safety factor, reaching too far out to be safe. A good way to offset this risk is having one side be higher than the other. The backside is higher, so the users cannot fall backwards, over the 5' high back-fencing.
6. Should sides be removable or movable?
Some of the posts may be removable to create more flexibility as to where project supplies may be able to be loaded onto the platform with a hoist or a forklift. Removable sides may reduce or eliminate the need for the supplies to be carried up the steps.
7. Have you thought of making it mobile?
Two directional vs. 360 degrees along with wheel or floor brakes can keep things flexible if small adjustments need to be made due to height of people and quality or maintenance checks.
8. How can you balance fall risks with dust/residue build up?
There are many options of floor plating that we can do in-house or purchase based on custom needs and preference. In this example, our customer chose Perf-O Grip. It allows for anti-slip characteristics. When you install "in-process" products using rivets, a "tail" of metal comes out. On a solid surface that "tail" could become a slip risk or slip hazard. Additionally, the perforated aluminum allowed some light to come through, for tasks and activities underneath the mezzanine.
Bar grating and tread plate are usually cheaper and low maintenance. They support situations that require passage of air, light and water between floors. Bar grating has more strength and comes in smooth or serrated finishes but is more expensive – usually being used for stair treads that can be swept.
At times, customers request grip strut around very slippery things like food manufacturing or machining that require oil lubricants. It Is a more expensive choice because of the intricate floor pattern required, but If that choice prevents one fall or one slip, the expense Is worth It.