Load Limits for Structurally Supported Surfaces
The last line of the lyrical refrain in the 1968 hit song “The Weight” by Canadian-American rock group The Band reads, “You put the load right on me.” In the context of a work environment with a mezzanine storage platform, this verse conjures up a mental picture of disaster for anyone who might happen to be underneath the platform if it were to suddenly collapse.
OSHA addresses this load limit concern in their recently updated Walking-Working Surfaces standard, 29 CFR 1910.22, general requirements, as follows:
1910.22(b) Loads. The employer must ensure that each walking-working surface can support the maximum intended load for that surface.
It’s important to note the previous general industry rule, 1910.22(d), required that “a plate of approved design indicating the floor load capacity must be posted.” In a letter of interpretation, OSHA states, “There is no longer a requirement for a floor loading sign; however, the employer must ensure that employees involved in warehousing or storage activities know the intended load limits. This applies to ‘structurally supported surfaces.”
The general requirements of the standard also cover inspection, maintenance, and repair with the employer to ensure:
- Walking-working surfaces are inspected, regularly and as necessary, and maintained in a safe condition;
- Hazardous conditions on walking-working surfaces are corrected or repaired before an employee uses the walking-working surface again. If the correction or repair cannot be made immediately, the hazard must be guarded to prevent employees from using the walking-working surface until the hazard is corrected or repaired; and
- When any correction or repair involves the structural integrity of the walking-working surface, a qualified person performs or supervises the correction or repair.
While there are several online resources for calculating floor load capacity, it is advisable to have a professional engineer calculate the maximum intended load. In a manner of speaking, maintaining the structural integrity of a storage platform along with ensuring its maximum load capacity is not exceeded is intended to ensure “the last waltz” doesn’t happen to an employee working on or under the supported structure.
MEMIC policyholders have access to a General Industry Self Inspection Checklist in the Safety Director Resource Library.