Facility managers are communicating with material handling dealers and buying mezzanines for projects when in fact they should be purchasing work platforms. What is the difference you can ask?
Mezzanines are elevated steel structures typically built between two main floors of a building. They are used primarily for the storage of goods and are frequently walked by staff to access the product. They support pallet racking, industrial racking, cantilever racking, and generally any type of racking system in addition to general floor storage. They can also act as an office on the second floor if modular offices are installed in them. They generally have a pound per square foot requirement of 125 PSF. As such, mezzanines have certain codes designed just for them.
Work platforms are generally built to contain equipment in a manufacturing environment. This equipment is usually above ground level. Some examples of these are broaching platforms, conveyor platforms, etc. Typically, a person would access this platform for repair or cleaning purposes only. They are not accessed on a daily basis and their main objective is to support the equipment above ground level.
While mezzanines have specific minimum height distances and stair width / length regulations, work platforms have clear exemptions from most of them. For example, a mezzanine requires 7 feet 6 inches of clearance underneath if people are working under it, and the same above for people walking on it. Additionally, when installing any type of plastic shelving, gondola shelving, or steel shelving, most firefighters require a 12-inch chase between each 48-inch deep shelving unit.
In the event that a platform is used to support equipment, boats, etc., the clearance above the equipment may be such that it clears the equipment and has enough space to accommodate repair or maintenance activities. There are no minimum requirements. The same applies to platform clearance as long as the equipment has sufficient space to accommodate repair or maintenance activities. Platforms need not be 125 PSF if less is sufficient. (Less PSF, less steel, less cost).
One ladder is needed for platforms unless common path of exit exceeds 75 feet, then a second is needed. However, you can use spiral staircases, staggered staircases, or an industrial staircase to get out. Additionally, platform ladders do not need to be designed for handicap accessibility. When designing and constructing mezzanines for general storage, the 2006 International Building Code (IBC) requires continuous handrails, extended handrails, and a 3-rail guardrail / guard plate system. Therefore, it is generally less expensive to purchase a work platform than a mezzanine of the same size.
There are other minor differences, but the bottom line is this: Define the use of the space you plan to add to your building, then work with a mezzanine professional to determine the correct type of mezzanine or work platform. This would include weight capacities, required shoes (if required), ladders, work surfaces, access doors, and railings.