Bleacher Safety3

Posted on 19 March 2009 by admin

by Michael Fickes

Every year, close to 20,000 men, women, and children fall out of bleachers and suffer injuries. Sometimes, a fall victim dies. Are your bleachers safe enough?

Inspecting Your Bleachers

But no one knows how many old bleachers in need of replacement or renovation exist in K-12 gymnasiums and athletic fields across the country, but there are likely quite a few. The only way to find them is for facility managers to inspect their bleachers.

In fact, the CPSC recommends and the NFPA requires that bleachers be thoroughly inspected at least quarterly by trained personnel and that any problems be corrected immediately. These groups also say that a licensed design professional should inspect the bleachers at least every two years and provide a written certification that the bleachers are fit for use.

Records of all inspections as well as records of all incidents and injuries should be retained.

To Repair? To Renovate? To Replace?

How can you perform an elementary evaluation of your bleachers and determine if repair, renovation, or replacement is necessary?

A spokesperson for Southern Bleacher Company in Graham, Texas, Garrett Pettus identifies six major components of grandstands and bleachers that can be inspected to answer this question.

• Support Structure: Structural components rank among the most critical items to evaluate, Pettus says. In most cases, galvanized steel structures show little deterioration, while painted steel structures may. During the inspection, look for noticeable rust, broken welds, loose bolts, and bent or damaged cross braces. Also check the concrete piers or slab upon which the bleachers sit. Look for heaving or sinking. • Seats, Footboards, and Risers: Pettus suggests looking for gaps large enough for a four-inch sphere to pass through. If the seats and footboards are made of wood, Pettus recommends testing the integrity of each board. “Wood often decomposes from the bottom or inside first,” he explains. • Aisles: Are the aisles fully closed? Are the aisles with seating on both sides at least 48 inches wide? Is the vertical dimension from step to step 8 inches or less? Are the handrails located at each aisle? • Egress — Stairs and Ramp: Pettus cautions that the stairs should be fully closed and asks if there is guard railing on each side, rising 42 inches above the bleachers, with spaces filled in to prevent a four inch sphere from passing through. • Guard Rails: Do your bleachers have guardrails for walking surfaces higher than 30 inches from the ground? Does the infill configuration eliminate openings large enough for a four-inch diameter sphere to past through? You should also check whether guardrails extend at least 42 inches above seat height. • ADA Compliance: Pettus also notes that bleaches today must comply with ADA regulations that require wheel chair seating at the main concourse elevation. Lines of sight for wheel chair patrons must be free of obstructions and comparable with lines of sight available to other spectators. Finally, the ramp must present a slope no steeper than 1:12.

“Based on answers to these questions, schools could be faced with renovating or replacing their grandstands and bleachers,” Pettus says. “This decision should be based on structural integrity, costs, future maintenance, and public safety. Ultimately, the answer determines if your grandstands and bleachers are an asset of a liability.”

What Are Bleachers?

Bleachers provide tiered or stepped seating, generally without backrests. They come in various configurations and sizes. Generally, they fit into one of four categories: permanent/stationary, portable/movable, telescopic/folding, and temporary. Temporary bleachers are typically stored in pieces and are intended for use only during specific events, such as circuses, golf tournaments, and parades.

“Guidelines for Retrofitting Bleachers” lists four categories of bleachers: Permanent/stationary, portable/movable, telescopic/folding, and temporary. The guidelines in the publication apply to bleachers in all four categories.

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