Many people do not realize that when installing equipment such as pallet racks, mezzanines, shelving, in-plant offices, or many other pieces of common material handling and storage equipment that you may be required to obtain a building permit. If you ignore the building permit process it can cost you money in delays, fines, or even having to remove the equipment being installed until a permit is obtained.
I used to live in Arizona, and in Tucson if you were installing any equipment taller than 8′-0″ you had to obtain a building permit. If you did not have the permit and the building inspector came around, you would have to remove that equipment.
If your installation requires electricity, the odds are that the wiring is required to be inspected before you flip the switch for the first time.
At a former employer we were going to be installing a mezzanine for a customer, and as part of the permitting process found out that the concrete slab in the building wasn’t thick enough. We ended up having to cut out portions of the concrete, and pour new footers where the columns would be resting. That certainly added cost and time to the installation. However if we had not gone through the permitting process, the cost could have been much greater in removing the mezzanine to pour the footers after the fact. The cost of a failure in the foundation and/or the mezzanine could have been even greater.
For the most part, the International Building Codes (IBC) codes govern the standards which you will have to meet. Your state or city may have requirements in addition to those in the IBC. Of course the IBC is not the only set of codes that may apply. The Occupational Safety And Health Administration (OSHA) has codes covering the safety aspects. While the IBC codes may address some fire safety issues, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes may be even more strict.
You may also find that your insurance company may have certain requirements for some material handling equipment. It is not uncommon for insurance companies to require the installation of fire sprinklers in storage racks if they are going to insure your facility.
When you are adding material handling equipment, make sure it is understood who is responsible to obtain the proper permits, and get it in writing. You may opt to do that yourself, or elect to have the equipment provider or the installer do this for you.
Building permits are there for your protection and the protection of public at large. By submitting to the building permit process, and having your installation inspected it can provide assurances that your installation meets the current standards.
For additional information you may want to visit these sites:
- ICC website. They are the people who generate the IBC code. http://www.iccsafe.org/
- NFPA publishes codes for fire and electrical safety. http://www.nfpa.org/
- OSHA is the federal government agency which sets safety standards. http:/www.osha.gov
- The Material Handling Industry Of America (MHIA) publishes a free PDF document to download which covers the safety codes pertaining to material handling equipment http://www.mhia.org/vango/core/orders/product.aspx?prodid=175
I have also found that if you contact your local building permit office, they can be quite helpful in letting you know what is needed to obtain a permit for your location.
Larry McGeachy has been in the material handling business since 1977. His experience includes everything from working in the warehouse, design and layout work, estimation, quoting, and his current position maintaining the Cisco-Eagle websites.