The Use of Your Mezzanine
The type of access required for your mezzanine floor will be largely dictated by its intended use. For example, a mezzanine floor that will be used for storage of large or bulky items will require completely different access to a mezzanine that is being used as office space. In the planning of mezzanine access, it is vital to consider the following issues:
Firstly, and most importantly, you will need to consider the safety of your employees. Are they likely to be carrying goods and produce? How heavy and bulky will these items be? 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.
Convenience and Productivity
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 conveyer to packers below. This produces a significant increase in productivity when compared with personnel having to escort goods down using lifts or stairs.
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.
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.
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