Platforms and Walkways Information
Platforms and walkways enable personnel access to elevated workspaces. They can also be called grating planks, catwalks, or industrial footbridges. Workers utilize these industrial and commercial access ways to inspect and address equipment, structures, and machinery. Systems typically employ planks or decking, structural supports, framing, hardware, and accessories such as handrails, access gates, stairs, ladders, and kick plates. They are closely related to industrial mezzanines, but are meant to facilitate access, not supplement floor space.
Platforms and walkways are a common feature of equipment and structures that will periodically need human access to inspect, maintain, or reconfigure components. They are a more permanent alternative to scaffolding, scissor lifts, or bucket lifts, though they may be also be removable or reconfigurable. Many can be disassembled and reinstalled at a new location. These platforms are found in both indoor and outdoor environments, from factory floors to seaports. They are typically made of metal, plastic, or fiberglass, and also include stairs, ladders, or ramps to convey personnel between elevations.
Platforms and walkways are designed with an emphasis on functionality, safety, and versatility as this equipment usually serves as a work site. Unlike pedestrian footbridges and walkways, industrial-oriented platforms and walkways rarely consider aesthetic influence. To increase visibility or corrosion resistance, some walkway components may be painted, coated, or treated.
Applications for industrial walkways are extensive, and suitability for a particular application is often a consequence of the materials of construction and pathway dimensions, including available floor space for structural supports. Common examples include:
- Arena catwalks
- Accessibility platforms for hand-picking in warehouses
- Maintenance walkways under bridges
- Product berths and oil storage tanks in port facilities
- Observation walkways over production lines or plant floors
- Highway signs
- Aggregate conveyors and loaders
- Access ways on sloped or unreinforced roofs
Modular vs. Custom
Prefabricated platforms and walkways are modular in design, and are easily adjusted to meet most equipment access challenges. These solutions are typically less expensive than custom options and are installed by the purchaser or a third-party contractor. Planks are interlocking spans of platform sections that usually include framing, handrails, and kick plates as a single unit. They are often composed of punched, extruded, and welded metal. Decking components are installed in separate, sequential pieces—framing, walking surface, kick plates, and then handrails.
Custom solutions are also available, but often require a site audit and are more expensive. However, they are an immediate, supplier-driven solution. Customers enlist a supplier who handles audit, sourcing, manufacture, and installation. Many manufacturers offer both options to clients.
Industrial mezzanines require secure foundations, especially those that burden significant loads. Slab strength is determined by its thickness, reinforcement, and underlying soil quality. An average 6 in. thick concrete slab can often handle loads up to 25,000 lb. without additional footings to distribute loads.
A variety of accessories enhance platform functionality. They often interlock with modular systems. Common accessories include, but are not limited to:
- Kick plates
- Access gates
Other peripheral components such as pipe or duct racks and supports, canopies, or various material handling equipment may also be offered by suppliers.
Walkway structures are often composed of several types of materials, with steel most commonly serving as the material for support columns.
- Aluminum: alloys are light, strong, and corrosion resistant.
- Composite: hybrid materials, such as fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP), are fabricated to meet unique application specifications, such as UV or fire resistance. Wood-plastic composites are a type of material with a wood-like appearance, but are easier to maintain than wood.
- Concrete: typically used as a footing for support columns with significant load; walkways of cement are often limited to extreme load and heavy washdown.
- Molded plastic: polymer panels are a common, inexpensive, and durable walkway material. They are often reinforced with wood or another adequate load bearing material.
- Steel: fabricated steel walkways are easy to customize and are strong, but may be susceptible to oxidation unless a galvanized finished is applied.
- Stainless steel: stainless steel grating is rust resistant and durable.
- Wood: equipment access platforms are not often composed of wood, but the material is a quality choice for impromptu or attractive walkway needs.
- Height (elevation): maximum aerial elevation for column-supported platforms
- Span: length of platform
- Width: distance between parallel railings, often between 18 and 48 inches
- Area: total square walking surface area
- Thickness: (sometimes referred to as height) distance between framing and walking surface
- Spacing: area measurements of holes in walking surface; manufacturers frequently provide a percentage of open area of a given platform or walkway
- Material: thickness of material used as walking surface; metals often supply gauges
Platform surfaces are solid, grated, or perforated and may include a surface texture for additional traction. Matting is a common material to improve system ergonomics. Wheeled material handling devices require a smooth, heavy-duty rolling surface and may utilize wood flooring or steel plating. For personnel-only surfaces, perforated and textured surfaces are more common.
Spacings of various sizes and shapes prevent the accumulation of debris and liquid hazards, such as oils or rainfall, but are never large enough to pose a walking hazard. Smaller holes may capture dropped tools or hardware. Larger holes may eliminate the need for duplicate lighting or sprinkler systems. Additionally, many surfaces include protruding textures to increase traction with rubber soles. Certain permutations of surfaces, spacings, or textures may be optimal for a specific application.
|Steel plate||Diamond tread||Solid surface; enhanced traction; embossed tread; corrosion and washdown resistant||Wikimedia|
|Wood||None||Economical; comfortable; needs underlying decking; can be covered with carpet or tile; smooth for wheeled material handling equipment||Cubic Designs|
|Perforated||Embossed button hole||Punctures transmit light, liquids, debris; embossed bumps improve traction; perforations can be circular, hexagon, octagon, or diamond-shaped||McNichols|
|Serrated||Allows maximum light, liquid, debris, and airflow transmission; walkway materials form squares or rectangles; serrated texture offers maximum traction||Wikimedia|
|Concrete||Channeled||Permanent; ideal for extreme loads, frequent washdowns, and climate exposure; channels or combed textures provide drainage and traction||Cubic Designs|
|Slatted||Embossed button hole||Surface composed of many width-sized parallel slats; offers light, liquid, debris transmission||McNichols|
Finishes provide aesthetic, visibility, and corrosion resistance benefits.
- Powder coat: an extremely durable and corrosion resistant finish made of urethane, acrylic, or epoxy resin.
- Paint: used to colorize items; an alternative to materials that cannot handle the heat needed to apply powder coat resins.
- Galvanization: components are dipped to provide protection against chemicals, climate, and washdowns.
- Adjustable height: a single system can be implemented at a range of elevations
- Food/pharmaceutical grade: the system is design for use in sterile environments
- Chemical resistance: platforms and components are not reactive
- Electrically nonconductive: grounding, insulation, or material prevents the transmission of current through platform
- Indentation resistant: impacts do not dent or deform surfaces
- Ergonomic: a supportive, comfortable walking surface
- Anti-slip: walkway surface incorporates design elements to improve sole traction
- Mobile: the walkway can be dismantled and relocated
- Oxidation resistance: walkway components prevent rusting
- Thermal nonconductive: materials transmit minimal thermal energy, also limiting the walkway material's coefficient of thermal expansion
- Spill containment: the walkway surface limits the spread of accumulated liquids to aid clean-up
- Fire resistance: system materials resist combustion in the presence of fire
- Washdown resistant: systems that are stainless steel, fiberglass, concrete, or galvanized are especially resistant to corrosion/erosion from regular washdown operations
- UV resistance: platform materials do not weaken or discolor after considerable sunlight exposure
Walkways and platforms have a variety of regulations to which they must adhere. The International Building Code (IBC) governs installation specifications in the United States, such as a platform's earthquake resistance, while the Occupational Safety and Health Administration oversees personnel safety requirements. Other state or local codes may also apply. Similar regulations exist in international locations. Materials should be recognized by their respective accrediting bodies (e.g. ASTM, AISC, AISI).
IBC I: Codes 2015 - International Building Code
ISO 14122 - Establishing permanent access to machinery between levels
BS 4592 - Industrial floor and stair treads
ASTM STP649 - Measuring slip resistance
Cubic Designs, Inc.