A Complete Guide To Mezzanine Floor Health & Safety
Health and safety in the workplace must be a priority for every business. When your premises have a mezzanine floor, the additional height introduces extra risks, making an effective mezzanine floor health and safety regime of even greater importance.
All the mezzanine floors we design and install fully satisfy Building Regulations and meet the requirements and recommendations of BRE Digest 437, including safety features such as guards, handrails and edge protection where appropriate.
Nevertheless, there is still the possibility of common accidents, such as objects falling from the mezzanine floor and injuring people below. This mezzanine floor health and safety guide is intended to help you recognise the possible risks and take appropriate preventative measures.
Preventing accidents and trips
To ensure effective mezzanine floor safety, it’s vital to carry out thorough risk assessments, both for the mezzanine floor itself and the area beneath and surrounding it. A mezzanine floor risk assessment should consider the likely consequences of common accidents, such as trips and slips, and more serious incidents, such as the floor supports being struck by a fork lift or delivery vehicle.
Preventing trips and slips can be down to the choice of floor covering, the provision of handrails, ensuring walkways are not obstructed and that all areas are adequately lit. In these examples, the floor surface may be slippery because it’s been chosen for its durability or ease of moving materials, in which case employees should be asked to take precautions by wearing suitable non-slip footwear.
Obstructions could be cable runs across walkways or furniture that encroaches into walkways. The cables and furniture should be repositioned wherever possible to reduce the chance of tripping over; if cables can’t be moved, they can be covered by cable floor protectors. Some are available with hi-viz panels, providing an extra safety feature.
Working at height on a mezzanine floor should be avoided wherever possible, but where it’s unavoidable, the operation should be planned in advance to minimise risk and be supervised. A colleague should be present to warn the person working at height about any hazards they may not be able to see, and to fetch help should the worst happen and the person falls.
On a mezzanine floor everyone is effectively working at height, so your installation must have handrails to protect them wherever necessary and should also have edge protection and/or mesh panels to stop dislodged objects falling on those below. We will advise on how and where these elements should be incorporated, at the design stage.
If you are using your mezzanine floor for storage, archiving, manufacturing or any other purpose where your employees are handling large and heavy objects, then they are just as much at risk of injury as those working at ground level. Manual handling injuries are all too common, and can often be avoided by training employees to lift and carry correctly, by finding ways to reduce the size and weights of objects moved manually or by bringing in equipment to carry out the task instead.
Less common but more serious accidents, such as vehicle damage to the mezzanine floor’s supporting pillars or overloading the floor itself, should be avoided by providing training and safety notices, and having safety inspectors who ensure the regulations are being observed. Any damage must be reported to the appropriate persons immediately, and the area evacuated or restricted until properly repaired.
What is the Health & Safety At Work Act?
All your mezzanine floor health and safety procedures should conform to the legislation contained in the Health and Safety At Work Act (1974).
The Health and Safety At Work Act stipulates that you have a ‘General Duty of Care’ to staff and visitors on your premises, safeguarding their safety and welfare as much as you practically can. The onus is on you to ensure effective management of all health and safety at work regulations, and regularly review your premises to reduce health and safety risks to everyone present.
The Act also states you should provide appropriate training those members of your staff who are responsible for overseeing health and safety, making regular safety inspections, carrying out risk assessments, and keeping records of their findings.
All staff should have sufficient training to ensure they can protect their health and carry out their roles safely. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to supervise them to make sure they are putting this training into practice.
As well as safeguarding your people, the Health and Safety At Work Act requires that you keep your premises free from defects that could compromise safety. Naturally, this includes your mezzanine floor. It must be maintained in good condition so it is fit for its intended purpose and delivers high standards of mezzanine floor health and safety. That extends to all access routes to your mezzanine floor, its lighting and ventilation, and the correct storage for any hazardous substances and materials.
In case there is an accident, first aid facilities and firefighting equipment should be available. The cause of any injuries must be recorded with measures taken to prevent its recurrence, and you should hold insurance to compensate the injured party.
How to manage health and safety
Effectively managing mezzanine floor health and safety should start with a mezzanine floor risk assessment. This assessment should identify all potential hazards to your employers and anyone else who may be on the premises.
How you use your mezzanine is a major factor in determining the risks that are present and the corresponding measures you put in place. A storage system such as pallet racking obviously introduces significant hazards, but a thorough approach covering all eventualities is still required even if your installation is for relatively ‘safe’ use, such as an office.
Once you have carried out a risk assessment and identified all potential causes of accidents, it is essential to minimise and manage them. Minimising risk involves physical measures, such as handrails, edge protection, mesh panels and pallet gates, and human interactions such as training employees in safe working practices and establishing action plans for emergencies.
To manage risk, you then need to implement a regular series of mezzanine floor inspections. These should check that the safety actions and procedures you have instigated are in place and maintained, and that the structure itself is undamaged and still fit for its intended use.
Mezzanine floor inspections need to be carried out by competent, trained and qualified staff who will:
- recognise risks
- organise and prioritise suitable responses
- ensure that those responses are actioned
- report when the risk has been eliminated or mitigated.
Whilst those members of staff carrying out inspections need to be qualified to do so, employees must also have sufficient training and instruction to be able to carry out their work safely. It’s a good idea to assign specific safety responsibilities to chosen members of staff, so they take ownership of a particular aspect.
Creating a documented inspection regime that clearly evaluates all safety criteria, shows who is assigned to each area and provides a record of each inspection, is an invaluable process. It is also proof of your commitment to and compliance with safe operation and the Health and Safety At Work Act.
You should have supervisors or management in place to regularly check and sign off this documentation. They should also ensure that all employees understand and are complying with your mezzanine floor health and safety requirements.
How to secure a mezzanine floor
We have now seen what is entailed in ensuring all measures in are place to secure your mezzanine floor safety.
- Carry out a risk assessment that highlights the potential for common accidents such as trips and slips, and more serious incidents such as damage to the mezzanine structure.
- Understand how the Health & Safety At Work Act affects mezzanine floor safety and ensure you meet all its requirements, such as adequate lighting and ventilation, and the provision of first aid and firefighting equipment.
- Minimise and manage safety risks, by making sure there is physical protection such as handrails and that employees are fully aware of the possible risks, trained in safe working practices and know how to respond to the action plan you have in place for emergencies.
- Maintain mezzanine floor safety through regular mezzanine floor inspections, carried out by specifically trained individuals whose work is overseen and approved by qualified supervisors or managers.
- Keep a properly documented record of your mezzanine floor inspections as proof of your compliance and management of health and safety at work.
- Have each mezzanine floor inspection document checked and signed off by the appointed supervisor or manager.
It is also good practice to regularly carry out exercises of your emergency action plan, so you can check that all employees understand what they need to do and are doing it (particularly recently joined staff) and that the plan is still fit for purpose.