Case study

A Guide To Choosing Mezzanine Floor Access

Feb 8, 2016 | Mezzanine Floors

Welcome to our comprehensive guide to mezzanine floor access features! Here we outline the various ways in which goods and people can move between different floor levels. You may be surprised by how many different methods there are!

When considering the right access features for your mezzanine floor numerous factors come into play. These include how the mezzanine floor is used. For example, is it used for inventory storage, offices space and retail areas? Other crucial factors include safety, convenience, and productivity.

The Use of Your Mezzanine

The specific function of the mezzanine floor and the activities being carried out on, and around it requires attention when considering access options. By choosing the right access options, you can maximise safety, efficiency and convenience whilst supporting the function of the mezzanine. Here’s a few examples of how the mezzanine function can influence access options:

Storage Purposes: When it comes to a storage mezzanine, you must consider how you will transport inventory in heavy loads between the different levels. Safety is a primary factor here, followed by speed and efficiency. In this instance a pallet gate or a goods lift are both viable options, it’s just a case of determining the option that suites your budget and operational needs.

Office Purposes: The movement between the floors of an office mezzanine involves people rather than goods and a staircase is the most viable option in this environment. There are various options when considering staircase type, quantity, and configuration with the involvement of individual preference, providing the structure meets UK standards and regulations. Another option is a lift which is particularly beneficial if the mezzanine is multi-tiered and can also provide a means of disability access.

Product Display Purposes – A retail mezzanine is the perfect solution when your looking to create a comfortable and spacious area in which to display your products, however ensuring customers can access those areas easily and without unnecessary risk is a crucial matter. A bespoke staircase developed with the shop theme in mind can have a positive influence on the overall feel of the space which can result in more sales. A lift is also an important access feature in retail spaces as it allows customers with disability adequate access to the product displays on the upper floor level. In larger retails spaces with heavy traffic an escalator provides ongoing access and can accommodate multiple people.

Warehouse, Distribution and Manufacturing Purposes – Having covered staircases, lifts, pallet gates and escalators there are additional options that may be extra beneficial to industrial operations. For some there is a need to enable the continuous movement of goods between floors and destinations. In such environments a conveyor is the ideal solution because it efficiently carries the goods from A to B allowing you to dedicate human labour to other activities. There is also the option of a goods chute where the items can slide down from the upper to lower floor levels.

mezzanine with adjaced VNA racking with P&DS

Prioritising Safety: Key Considerations

A mezzanine floor in an industrial or commercial setting must meet the standards of UK Building Regulations and as it is categorised as equipment expected to be used by employees, it must comply with the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWERS). For this reason, safe access is crucial, so, here’s a few things to consider:

  • Potential hazards – A risk assessment will help you to identify any potential hazards associated with various access options and determine their likelihood and severity.
  • Emergency evacuation plans – Where and how access points are situated must be carefully considered in relation to fire safety. Fast and unobstructed routes to external exit points from the building must be prioritised during the design stage.It is important to consult qualified advisors and engineers who can make sure that access is designed in full compliance with fire and health and safety best practice. Further information on mezzanine floor safety can be found here.

Don’t Forget Convenience and Productivity

Carry out a traffic flow analysis – How much movement is expected and at what volume? Without taking this into consideration when planning access features, the routes between floor are at risk of congestion.

You will need to consider how many people will be accessing your mezzanine floor at a time and with what purpose. A ladder or spiral staircase will only be accessible to one person at a time and they will not be able to carry much with them. If your personnel are standing in line waiting for their “turn” to use the mezzanine access, this will inevitably have an impact on their productivity.

Will you be storing goods on the mezzanine? If so, how much will be moved at a time? How often will you be moving goods up and down? A storage facility that needs large, bulky items to be moved up or down 10-20 times a day, will need a different method of access to a distribution centre that plans to rapidly move thousands of smaller items a day.

Once you have fully considered all aspects of the use of your mezzanine, you will be able to discuss the access options that are available:

Exploring Access Options

Steps

Steps are possibly the most obvious solution. They are a simple, inexpensive means of access. As steps are quick to climb and can support multiple users at once, they allow for convenience and productivity. Users are also able to carry small amounts of lightweight goods or paperwork with them up and down the stairs; unlike a cat ladder or similar. However, there are obviously limitations; large, heavy or bulky goods cannot be carried up and down stairs on a regular basis. Steps also do not allow for disabled access.

Retail mezzanine staircase

Personnel Lifts

Personnel lifts are a good solution for multi level mezzanine floors. It also allows the mezzanine to be used by people who find stairs inaccessible. It is important to have an additional means of accessing the mezzanine floor, as lifts cannot be used in the event of an emergency. They also have a limited capacity – so if lots of people are needing to go up or down, steps may be a useful secondary means of access.

Goods Chute

This option transports goods from A to B very quickly, so is ideal for fast paced operations, however, is can only transport goods in a downward direction and is only suited to hand loaded items. The chutes are curved to allow a degree of control as the goods make their way downwards.

Goods Chutes

Escalators

Escalators are often used in the mezzanine floors of large retail facilities. Large enough to accommodate a shopping trolley, escalators can support multiple users and substantial weight at one time. Safety features can be incorporated to stop goods (for example on trolleys) from rolling backwards and causing accidents.

Goods Lifts

Goods lifts can be a useful way to access a mezzanine level that is used for storage, as large, heavy or bulky items can be transported. Your goods lift can be designed to take large trolleys and extreme weight, depending on your requirements.

Goods Lift

Cat Ladder

A cat ladder is a very solid, stable ladder, which is an inexpensive means of accessing your mezzanine floor. It can also be built with platforms that can be used as rest stops, so can be used for multi level mezzanine floors. It does not offer much potential for moving products, but it could be a secondary means of access, or in some cases could be an ideal fire escape. A qualified consultant will be able to advise on the fire safety requirements for your facility.

Spiral Staircases

A spiral staircase saves space and is also slightly easier to use than a ladder as it can be accessed without the use of hands for balance. Some companies have found spiral staircases to be a good secondary (or even primary) means of access to their mezzanine floor.

Conveyors

Conveyors are ideal for sending small to medium sized goods up or down from a mezzanine level. This is a particularly good option for facilities such as distribution warehouses where goods are moved very regularly throughout the day. Goods can quickly and efficiently be picked by staff on the mezzanine floor and sent down the conveyor to packers below. This produces a significant increase in productivity when compared with personnel having to escort goods down using lifts or stairs.

Conveyor system on mezzanine

Pallet Gates

Ideal for facilities where large amounts of heavy goods need to be moved on a regular basis, pallet gates allow you to have an open side to your mezzanine floor onto which pallets can be loaded and unloaded by crane or forklift. The gate protects the exposed edge to prevent accidental falls and ensures that while unloading and loading pallets, workers are always behind a safety rail. Pallet gates are available in all shapes and sizes, to suit your requirements. This is a very economical way of loading and unloading goods and can be used alongside an access method for your personnel, such as steps or ladders.

Choosing the Right Access for Your Needs

The laws governing mezzanine access are complex and the regulations that apply to your building will depend on numerous different factors. Therefore we always recommend that you consult experts before planning your mezzanine access. When WSL undertake a project, we take responsibility for ensuring that all planning and building regulations are met, as well as fire and health & safety regulations.

If you would like to book a consultation with one of our specialist mezzanine floor advisors, please call WSL today on: 0113 204 5350

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