Mezzanine floor are commonly found and erected in workplace. The installation of mezzanine floors are claimed to be a cost-efficient solution that maximise the available space and could potentially double the size of the workspace and solve storage issues.
Mezzanine floors are used in a variety of industries and workplaces such as:
- warehouses and industrial buildings
- In retail for retail display & storage as well as,
- Work areas for new offices
Mezzanine floor come with many benefits for the workplace. This includes easy and fast extensions to the work area with little disruption; more space for increased performance and better organisation.
Introducing a new hazard
With the introduction of mezzanine floors comes the introduction of a new hazard. Because materials are kept on the mezzanine floors, they need to be accessed by a forklift or some other mechanical means, hence an opening in the rail is inevitable. This opening creates a new fall hazard.
An unprotected mezzanine, where materials is loaded and unloaded and a portion of the mezzanine left exposed to the edge during a time, places people at a high risk of falling off the edge, through the floor’s surface or when accessing the level.
Workplaces must find ways to protect that opening with a mezzanine pallet gate.
Falling from heights fatalities
SafeWork Australia states that working at heights is a high-risk activity and a leading cause of death and serious injury in Australia.
Between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 2015:
- 359 workers were killed following a fall from a height which amounted to 11% of all workers killed over this period.
- Half of these falls involved falling three metres or less.
The Working at Heights Association, WAHA, reports that working at heights is the second highest cause of worker fatalities. In 2016 there were 25 fatalities which amounted to 14% of all the total workplace fatalities. This shows a rise of 3% of fatalities in 2016, which is most concerning.
Primary duty of care
SafeWork Australia specifies that the Person Conducting a Business or an Undertaking, PCBU has specific obligations under the model WHS Regulations to manage the risk, as far as is reasonably practicable, of someone falling from one level to another.
This includes requirements to:
- Ensure that any work involving the risk of a fall is carried out on the ground or on a solid construction.
- Provide safe means to access and exit a workplace.
- Minimise the risk of falls by providing a fall prevention device, work positioning system or a fall arrest system.
With regards to mezzanine floors the latter two apply as they are above the ground.
In order to assist workplaces to manage this high- risk, SafeWork Australia has provided a Code of Practice.
Ways to minimise the risk of falls
The Model Code of Practice: ‘Managing the risk of falls at workplaces’, outlines ways to minimise the risk of falls. It provides practical guidance to the PCBU, including those persons who design, construct, import, supply or install plant or structures, on how to manage health and safety risks arising from falls. It also includes information on a range of control measures to eliminate or minimise the risks.
General prevention strategies
While workplaces and manufacturers have come up with varies devices and control methods to manage the risk associated with openings on mezzanine floors for material handling, Verge has an innovative invention that is automated and brings safety with efficiencies.
The Verge ‘electronic, remote operated’ rollover gate! allows the forklift operator to:
- Open and close the mezzanine access gate remotely from the forklift.
- Save time as the operator remains seated and buckled in the vehicle
- Eliminates the need for manual handling of the gates and
- Prevent the risk associated with mounting and dismounting the forklift and stair climbing.
AutoGate, the automation of the Verge mezzanine pallet gate, not only prevents the risk of falling from heights, but reduces other risk like manuals handling and slip trip falls. In fact, it allows for an efficient and effective method of work flow that can improve the bottom line of the business.