In commercial buildings a mezzanine floor is categorized as workplace equipment therefore ensuring safety should be prioritised in accordance with The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER). Whilst ensuring PUWER guidelines are met is a legal requirement, there’s also a moral obligation as an employer to safeguard employees as they carry out their duties. Routine mezzanine floor inspections ensure continual sustainability and safety which is why it’s advisable to carry out an inspection annually like that of a racking inspection.
Mezzanine floor safety hazards
A mezzanine floor safety inspection carried out by an approved inspector with experience will detect damage or weaknesses that may otherwise go unnoticed. However minor, if such faults are not addressed promptly they are likely to worsen over time, affecting the overall safety of the structure. Early detection followed by immediate and appropriate action will reduce the risk of a serious incident which could impact lives and cost the business greatly in terms of money, time and reputation. A typical defect found during a mezzanine floor inspection can include:
- Detached handrails or edge protection – With the potential to loosen further over time, increasing the risk of an accident and serious injury any unsecured parts must be replaced, refitted or tightened at the earliest opportunity.
- Damaged fire rating – Even minor damage to fire rated casings, barriers and fascias can hinder the expected level of protection, therefore the immediate replacement of any damaged sections is crucial.
- Damage to flooring – An uneven floor due to damage is a potential trip hazard putting employees at risk of injury which is why any damaged areas should be replaced immediately.
- A displaced steel column – Taking the weight of the platform, a column that has been knocked from its position by heavy moving equipment bellow would likely cause the structure to collapse. Urgent action should be taken to make the area safe whilst being sectioned off until a replacement column has been sourced and repairs are complete.
What factors contribute to mezzanine floor safety hazards?
A mezzanine floor is a robust and sustainable structure made up of steel component parts, however factors that effect continual safety can vary in accordance to:
The activities carried on the mezzanine floor
An office mezzanine is far less likely to suffer the same level of accidental damage than that of a storage mezzanine floor. The storage of heavy loads on the upper level may involve the movement of pallets, operating heavy machines or large pieces of equipment all of which increase the risk of bumps and scrapes. This could affect the floor surface where dents may appear or the edge protection where scrapes from pallets or moving equipment could occur. A mezzanine floor designed by WSL will incorporate the correct weight load bearings for its use along with appropriate fixtures and fittings including flooring type, edge protection, hand rails and balustrades to help minimise potential hazards.
The age of the mezzanine floor
An aging mezzanine floor has an increased chance of accruing weakened areas than that of a newer mezzanine floor due to longer exposure to collisions, the environment and usage. There’s no age limit to a mezzanine floor, however continual maintenance and inspections will result in high levels of safety throughout its lifecycle, and increased durability. At WSL our longest serving inspector has assessed both newer and older mezzanines with many having been maintained and still in a safe and sustainable condition since the start of his career twenty years ago.
The environment in which the mezzanine floor is situated
A mezzanine floor situated in a busy facility where moving handling equipment is often in operation is at higher risk of being knocked and bumped. Moving fork lift trucks bellow the mezzanine level can leave the supporting columns more vulnerable than a mezzanine floor with office space bellow or a retail shopping area. Column guards are advisable if the structure is at risk of collision. As part of our manufactured product range which includes mezzanine floors, WSL manufacture bespoke column guards with a choice of colour and style to suit your preferences. Lighting is also a contributing factor as a low lit area can cause trips and falls whilst ventilation and temperature can have negative affect well-being when not set appropriately.
The mezzanine floor is pre-owned
With a much lower investment initially, a pre-owned mezzanine floor is the ideal solution for those with a very limited budget. On the basis that the mezzanine floor was tailored to its previous owners needs and was used to support those needs there is an increased risk of the mezzanine being unsuitable for your needs in terms of operation and safety. Full history documentation detailing weight load bearing, safety inspections and maintenance should be obtained whilst WSL can offer a mezzanine inspection prior to purchase to detect any weaknesses, damage or potential risks.
Guidance for a safe mezzanine floor
By ensuring periodic mezzanine floor inspections, safety is maintained and risks are greatly reduced, however there is a number of ways you can enhance the safety of your mezzanine floor:
Use mezzanine floor column guards where appropriate
Fitted to the base of your mezzanine floor, column guards form a protective barrier taking the impact of collisions caused by moving handling equipment, ensuring the structural columns remain unaffected. As mentioned above, WSL manufacture column guards, powder coated to add further strength using a colour of your choice although bright colours such as orange and yellow will further enhance visibility.
Never overload the mezzanine floor
Burdening a mezzanine floor with more weight than it’s designed to take can be catastrophic. Every mezzanine floor is uniquely designed for individual purposes with a specified weight load bearing and to help eliminate the risk of overloading, weight load notices should be displayed. These easy to read signs offer immediate information without the need to source the mezzanines safe weight load information elsewhere. If you’re considering a change of use for your mezzanine floor, specialist advice should be sought to establish whether the structure will safely take the weight of the intended new activities.
Adopt safe and efficient mezzanine floor access
Transporting people and goods too and from the upper level in the safest way possible is crucial. Mezzanine floor staircases must be designed in accordance to UK Building Regulations to ensure they are safe to use and offer easy emergency access. Depending on the size of the mezzanine floor, you may require more than one staircase all of which should be positioned to minimise travel time, particularly in an emergency and must never be obstructed. WSL work along side UK Building Regulating Officers during every project and use our extensive knowledge of the rigorous guidelines to ensure staircases are safe and efficient. Our manufacturing capabilities enable truly bespoke staircases that meet all safety and operational needs as well as individual preferences. To prioritise the safety and well-being of anyone with a disability, a passenger lift can also be installed whilst a goods lift can be fitted to transport heavy loads between floors safely. A pallet gate is also an option when considering safe access for goods as they enable the safe placement of a pallet onto the mezzanine level when loaded from bellow via a fork lift truck. The gate increases safety as the task is carried out by forming continuous edge protection throughout whilst shielding the area from operators in the vicinity. At WSL, our manufactured pallet gates can be sized and styled to provide maximum safety within the individual operation.
Ensure the mezzanine floor is fire protected
Fire rating should also be fitted to any mezzanine which exceeds 10m from any side or if the way it’s used involves it being accessed by the general public whether that’s staff, customers or visitors. The specialist panels, barriers and fascias protect the structure from smoke, heat and flames for up to 60 minutes and are required under UK Building Regulations. If you have an existing sprinkler system in place this can be continued to the mezzanine area however a new sprinkler system is not compulsory. Fire safety signage, alarms, manual fire extinguishers and emergency alarms will increase safety in the event of an emergency. Fire safety is high priority at WSL which is why our Design Technicians carry out a thorough fire safety assessment during the initial site survey. This enables them to create a solution that meets all fire safety regulations which is then approved by a UK Building Regulations Officer before the design can be implemented.
The mezzanine floor should have adequate lighting, heating and air quality
A mezzanine floor should feel comfortable to work on and there should be no risk of illness or accidents due to the conditions. Lighting, heating and air conditioning are all things to consider as part of a turnkey project or should be considered if the current set up is inadequate.
Carry out in-house mezzanine floor safety inspections
By providing basic training you can enable your team to carry out routine in-house inspections, allowing potential hazards to be identified and reported promptly. Training can be organised by our team at WSL where our most experienced inspector spends time training your team at your site on how to detect damage or weaknesses with guidance on appropriate actions.
Keep the mezzanine floor clean and tidy
Debris and loose pieces of packaging can cause serious harm should they result in a trip or fall which is why it’s important to keep a tidy workplace. Preventable accidents can prove costly to the business and cause distress to the injured party. A tidy workspace is easy to implement through managerial guidance where by all team members play their part.
Be sure your mezzanine floor is manufactured in accordance to UKCA marking
A mezzanine floor is a steel structure therefore the UKCA Marking is a vital indication that the structure meets all of UK’s safety regulations. To achieve this, the manufacturer must undergo rigorous assessments and audits periodically to gain and maintain the accreditation. WSL is proud of our UKCA Marking accreditation which now applies to UK manufactures in the place of the CE Marking which we have continuously held since it became a legal requirement in 2014. This along side our Full SEMA Membership provides quality and safety assurance for each mezzanine floor we design and manufacture in-house.
Use the extensive experience and expertise of WSL!
Using the red, amber and green signal system outlined by SEMA (Storage Equipment Manufacturers Association) our inspectors armed with decades of experience will assess the condition of columns, edge protection, staircases, handrails, pallet gates, flooring and lifts. The inspection will be thorough with a section by section assessment to ensure the entire structure is examined. Any areas that do pose immediate threat to safety will be placed in the red category and highlighted instantly so the area can be taken out of use without delay until repairs are complete. On completion of the inspection you will be issued with a detailed report highlighting all findings with guidance on any actions which should be taken if any.
Our most experienced and knowledgeable inspector Yannis has accumulated extensive knowledge and experience during the last twenty years he has spent assessing the safety of storage equipment including mezzanine floors. Yannis has become a very well known and trusted face to many of our clients whose sites he visits year after year ensuring their operation is completely safe. If you would like Yannis to visit your site and assess your mezzanine floor or other storage equipment contact Jo, our inspections coordinator on 0113 204 5350 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and she will happily arrange this for you.