Case study

Mezzanine floor edge protection – It’s a must have!

Dec 7, 2022 | Mezzanine Floors

You may know what a mezzanine floor is, but do you know ABOUT mezzanine floors?

Today’s in depth symposium will be about how to stop people or things from falling off of the edge of any mezzanine floor or raised storage platform. In technical terms “Protection from falling, collision and impact: Approved Document K” the statutory guidance in Building Regulations for England.

Edge protection is paramount to safety and for that reason it is a key component to every mezzanine floor designed by the WSL technical department.

Whilst it may be obvious that a mezzanine floor in any workspace or public building without adequate edge protection would be highly dangerous and unlawful, at WSL, we understand that not everyone is familiar with the norms and provisions of edge protection. By helping you to understand the formalities of edge protection the matter will become less complex and you will gain a greater understanding of how to proceed when planning a safe mezzanine workspace.

three level guarding system

Let us start at the beginning – What is edge protection?

An anti-fall system for platforms which are above ground level, mezzanine floor edge protection is installed to secure any exposed edges along the perimeters of the elevated floor surface and stairway, forming a barrier between the safety of the platform and the drop over the edge.

Edge protection serves two major purposes:

Prevent people from falling – Whether its employees, visitors or customers who are accessing your mezzanine floor, it is your responsibility both legally and morally to protect them from the risk of falling. Even from less the 2 metres high, a fall from height can be incredibly lethal and carries a great risk of serious injury and fatality.

Prevent items from falling –The main risk of falling items from an overhead level is injury to people on the lower ground. Whatever the height and whatever the object, an item landing on a person from height has the potential to cause serious harm.

The encirclement created by edge protection is designed to safeguard those on the mezzanine level and equally those on the floor below.

The three key elements of edge protection

The triple effect of mezzanine floor edge protection is to provide guarding at three height levels:

Upper body level – A handrail at this level provides stability to anyone walking or working near the edge and by guarding the upper body level, an accidental fall near the edge means the person cannot fall over the top part of edge protection.

Knee level – This is midway between the handrail and floor, knee level protection will prevent people or items from falling from below the hand rail level.

Foot level – The danger of foot level being unsecured is the risk of small items being accidentally kicked over the edge.

So those are the dangers, what can be implemented to ensure that all three height levels are adequately secured?

Edge protection options

As a solution created to meet individual needs, there are various options when it comes to edge protection systems for your mezzanine floor. Whilst the primary function of edge protection is to prevent falls, you would need to assess the level of endurance required for your environment and ensure compliance with UK Building Regulations.

Industrial – The one you could call the “plain vanilla” or “bog standard” handrail systems used principally in warehouses, factories and assembly plants. The industrial workplace can be a harsh environment in which moving vehicles, machines and large structures are likely to be present and this carries a heightened risk of accidental bumps and scrapes. For this reason, a three-rail system consisting of robust steel components is the most appropriate edge protection option. The three rails include a handrail positioned at 1100mm high, a kick plate which is fixed to the floor and resembles a short steel wall of around 100mm high, and at the halfway point, a knee rail. These are supported by steel vertical posts which would typically stand at 1500mm apart and if required, the gap above and below the knee rail can be secured using wired mesh or steel panels.

Edge protection including pallet gate

In an industrial environment, there is often a need to handle pallets on the mezzanine floor level. If this is the case, the edges of the mezzanine platform must remain protected as the pallets enter and leave the platform. Bespoke pallet gates designed and manufactured by WSL provide uninterrupted edge protection even whilst pallets are being loaded and off-loaded. The rails incorporated into the up and over pallet gate system run seamlessly in line with the static rails at all times to ensure the same level of protection at all times for those working close to the gate.

Pallet Gate

Offices – A much calmer environment, the office mezzanine is without heavy activity or the movement of goods and vehicles; however, the platform must safely support the occupancy and movement of people. Although edge protection for an office mezzanine environment must be sufficiently robust, the nonindustrial conditions allow for more options to suit individual preferences whilst prioritising safety. Stainless steel handrails with glass infills for example, will help create an open and airy look and feel whilst still providing adequate protection.

Another option is to place partition walls at the edge of the mezzanine if the desire is to create individual rooms whilst diminishing all edge exposure. It should be noted at this point that these (and any other edge protection) MUST meet minimum structural strength loadings as set out in the building regulations.

Office mezzanine with glass partition and theme coloured carpeting

Retail and public spaces – Because the general public includes children, the three-rail system is unsuitable for environments in which the general public can access. A child is small enough to fall through the gaps between the rails and children may be tempted to climb a horizontal rail, therefore solid infill panels or vertical spindles are used to secure those gaps. Any openings between the infill edges and the rails or between spindles must not allow the passing through of a 100mm diameter sphere.

Retail edge protection - steel handrail and glass infill

Staircases have edges too!

When using a staircase, we instinctively reach out for a handrail. Forming the top part of stairway edge protection, the handrail provides stability, particularly if we begin to lose our balance. For comfort and practicality, the continuous rail is angled and positioned 900mm above the corner of each step.

Retail mezzanine stairs with edge protection

Double up: For staircases wider than 2 metres, a central handrail is required to divide the flight so each side is 1000mm wide.

Where a wall is absent, the 900mm gap between the steps and handrail will require the appropriate balustrades for the environment, whether that is glass infill panels or steel knee rails. Again if the stairway is to be accessed by the general public, any openings along the flight guarding must be small enough to block the passing through of a 100mm sphere.

Don’t trip over your nose. Whilst the edge of each individual step cannot be guarded, the risk of falls is minimised with nosing which is suitably visible for the environment. Risers must be closed and 55mm contrast nosing must be placed on the riser and the tread. All treads MUST be the same height and for stairways in industrial environments, nosing must be brightly coloured and contrasting to the main tread, to ensure maximum visibility in both directions.

Industrial straicase with bright yellow nosing

UK Building Regulations – A reminder of key points

As illustrated in UK Building Regulations, Approved Documents Part K, these are a few points to remember:

  • From the walking floor level of mezzanines and landings to the top of the balustrade, the minimum height should be no less than 1100mm
  • The space between each vertical post is 1500mm
  • Where kick plates are used, they should extend 100mm up from the walking floor level
  • In public environments, any gaps around infill panels or between spindles must not allow a sphere of 100mm to pass through.
  • The minimum width of an access staircase between walls or strings is 1200mm.
  • For a staircase more than 2 metres wide, a central handrail is needed to make each side 1000mm

Maximise mezzanine floor safety with WSL

Your safety, the safety of your employees and the safety of your visitors or customers is paramount to the WSL design team. As a designer who manufactures mezzanine floors, staircases and edge protection components in-house, safety is at the forefront of everything we do. Reflecting this is our UKCA certification alongside our Full SEMA Membership and our experience which spans across more than 30 years. Our design team alone possess 100 years of experience combined with each designer highly competent when it comes to calculations that meet the standards of Building Regulations and not just for England, but also Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales too. Something you will see first-hand when you meet one of our friendly and professional designers during your free site survey!

More than just fit-for-purpose, a mezzanine floor produced by WSL is the safest and most effective way to maximise your space! Arrange a site visit today! Call 0113 2045350 or email sales@wslmail.co.uk

 

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