By Laurie Benko, Benko Products
Mezzanine areas provide valuable staging and storage space in warehouses and distribution centers, where space is at a premium. However, mezzanines are often located nine feet or more above the ground floor, which can also present a serious hazard to workers that must access freight delivered or stored at this level. OSHA standard 1910 Subpart D requires employers to provide protection for personnel on walking-working surfaces—which include any surface higher than four feet above the ground floor. Many mezzanine areas are surrounded almost entirely by railing; however, in order for loads to be successfully delivered, this railing must include a gap wide enough to permit freight onto the platform—and this section cannot contain a permanent guardrail.
Mezzanine safety gates play a key role in the industry by protecting personnel and ensuring OSHA compliance. While a simple chain rope strung across the railing gap satisfies OSHA’s requirements, a rope serves more as a visual warning than an effective means of protection. Personnel may lose balance and fall over the chain or onto it—potentially breaking the barrier due to the weight applied, making it an insufficient solution. A lift-out gate may provide a more stable barrier but still exposes the worker to an unprotected ledge. An additional concern with both these solutions is, to avoid the hassle of removing and replacing the rope or gate each time a load is delivered, an operator may purposefully leave the gap unguarded—presenting a critical risk.
A mezzanine swing gate installed within the railing gap delivers far better personnel protection. The most operator-friendly and safe design opens only 90 degrees in one direction—toward the operator, rather than off the ledge—and features a self-closing design. However, this arrangement still places employees at risk, requiring them to approach the very edge of the mezzanine to open the gate. In addition, if the prior personnel who accessed the mezzanine mistakenly left the door unlatched, the following worker could be exposed to a hazardous situation.
A pivot-mount mezzanine gate functions via manual, counterweighted pivot operation and delivers fail-safe protection by eliminating the potential risk of an open gate. With a fixed framework on each side of the pivot mount, this gate mounts directly beneath the mezzanine platform and replaces a single door with two cage-like enclosures that pivot on a central hinge. When the enclosure nearest to the edge of the mezzanine is lifted to allow load delivery to the platform, the second enclosure is resting on the mezzanine itself—effectively blocking personnel from accessing the load, as well as the fall hazard. To access the load, the operator lifts the second enclosure, and the gate pivots so that the initial enclosure rests on the mezzanine floor. The operator can then step beneath both enclosures to access the load safely, without exposure to the mezzanine ledge.
This gate provides a significant advantage over alternative methods in that operators cannot bypass it and cannot be exposed to the mezzanine ledge, making it ideal for complying with OSHA and insurance requirements. In addition, since operators open the gate independently of handling the load, it’s more operator-friendly to use. These gates are often painted “safety” yellow and may feature a durable, all-welded design that makes them ideal for withstanding harsh industrial and chemical environments.
While the pivot-mount mezzanine gate provides superb personnel protection, it may not be appropriate for every mezzanine area. As it contains two enclosures, it utilizes several square feet of mezzanine floor space. At times, space is at such a premium in these areas that the required square footage cannot be spared—either due to other equipment located within this area or stored goods that consume a majority of the available space. Plus, a pivot-mount gate only allows access to the front of the load; side access, which is required for some loads, is not possible with this style.
A clear-aisle mezzanine gate provides a low-profile design ideal for mezzanine areas with space constraints. This gate consists of two posts only 10 inches in depth mounted on the mezzanine ledge, with a “corral” between them consisting of three sides that is around 60 inches in depth. On the drop side by the ledge is a sliding gate that begins in the raised position to facilitate load delivery. When the sliding gate is up, the corral rests on the platform, thus protecting personnel from the fall hazard. Once the load is delivered, this framework is manually raised over the operator’s head, which thereby closes the sliding gate—thus blocking access to the mezzanine ledge. The overhead design allows the operator access to the load and work area on three sides and decreases the risk of obstructing nearby equipment or storage items.
While each mezzanine area can likely utilize at least one of the above mezzanine safety gate styles, the gates often must be customized to meet specific application requirements. In many cases, this customization will cost only slightly more than standard models but provide an immeasurably better solution. A pivot-mount gate may be designed so that the raised enclosure reaches a lower-than-standard height, fabricated to work around low-hanging ceiling beams or sprinkler heads. The framework of the gate itself may also be extended to accommodate larger loads or higher product stacks, as well as to work around any tanks or machinery installed in the mezzanine area. This allows easy delivery of many material loads—including material that may be used on-site to fill these tanks or other machinery on the mezzanine—while ensuring operator fall protection.
Gate construction may additionally be customized to withstand challenging application environments. For example, a gate with a powder-coat finish delivers an ideal solution for areas prone to corrosion, while stainless steel gates provide an ideal sanitary solution for food and beverage areas. The combination of customization options, durable design and fail-safe operation make these safety gates an ideal fall protection solution for the widest range of mezzanine areas.
For more information on mezzanine safety gates, visit www.benkoproducts.com.