Code Corner 2005.5
Use of Freight Elevators for Passengers
This column is intended to discuss new or existing rules and interpretations that may affect the operations or planning of your vertical transportation systems. The rules within the A17.1 Code are intended to be clear and unambiguous, but there are sometimes unintended consequences to the rules that leave the reader confused as to the intention of the Code.
Accessibility and vertical transportation are invariably tied together in many types of facilities. Many model building codes do address various aspects of accessibility in regards to elevator sizes and features. However the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) remains separate from the building code and is a civil law. What this means is that while codes and standards are evolving to meet the necessary demands of ADA, it is still a person wearing a black robe who will be the ultimate judge of an owner's accessibility issue.
Now that our own disclaimers are out of the way, there is an option in ASME A17.1 that may address some ADA issues for some owners that do not have to move the general public. For example, many retail clients have only one shopping floor open to the general public, but keep stock or back office space on another floor.
Accessibility for employees needs to be addressed, and many clients end up installing a passenger type elevator to address access. This can cause operational problems when the passenger elevator is then used to move stock, or larger items more suitable for a freight elevator.
The Code prohibits carrying of passengers on freight elevators. Only the operator and those involved in the movement of freight are permitted to ride the elevator. ASME A17.1 requirement 2.16.4 does permit freight elevators to carry passengers if certain design elements are included in the elevator.
Careful application of this rule in design will permit the installation of a freight elevator suitable for moving stock or freight and employees. One of the key fundamental requirements of this rule is that the freight elevator cannot be available to the general public. What this means is that a retail client can install a freight elevator and not worry about damaging a passenger elevator by using it the wrong way and still provide access for employees between floors.
There are a number of other key design requirements in this rule that must be provided to meet the requirements. Careful coordination in applying this aspect of the Code is essential.
We at VTX® deal with code issues on a regular basis. It is very likely that your question is not new to us, and we can help quickly. It is not uncommon for us to bring a request for interpretation for our clients before A17.1. Just remember that ASME wants the requirements to be clearly understood, so get it clarified, it could dramatically affect your project or operation!