The game is 6-7 and the home team has one last chance to win the game. The grandstands are packed and the crowd is going wild, cheering and stomping its feet. Have you ever wondered if the stands could hold all of those people?

Bleachers can vary greatly: some are made from steel, aluminum, concrete, or plastic; some are permanent, temporary, or retractable; they’re found both indoors and outdoors. Most school districts, community centers and athletic facilities have at least one set, and all are required to be reviewed annually, but are they actually inspected?

The International Code Council [1], the organization that sets industry design standards, requires an annual inspection of all bleachers. It states: “All existing tiered seating shall be inspected and evaluated at least once a year by a qualified person for compliance…” The inspection is necessary to keep fans safe, even when the quarterback is running down the field with 5 seconds left.

Performed by someone familiar with bleacher systems, inspectors conduct a visual review of accessible portions of the structure looking for loose, damaged or missing components. This can include seats, walking surfaces, guardrails, handrails, stairs, ramps, support structure, visible foundations, and even press boxes and viewing platforms.

Schaefer regularly performs annual inspections with various regional schools. We have encountered conditions ranging from excellent to those requiring immediate attention.

In the photo below, you can see a bolt that once anchored a large outdoor bleacher to its foundation, but water ponding caused the bolt to rust completely through. Constant exposure to weather can quickly cause serious problems to outdoor bleacher systems such as rust damage, foundation cracking, and connection failures.

Bleacher Bolts

Indoor bleachers are not immune to detrimental effects just because they are protected from the weather. We have discovered indoor bleachers with bent supports in large gymnasium bleachers, corroded anchor bolts in natatorium bleachers exposed to chlorine, and seats so warped you can barely sit on them. Such issues can be readily discovered during an annual inspection.

Bleachers and grandstands are a critical part of many public facilities, and that regular exposure to the public makes their continued maintenance a critical part of the public’s safety. By instituting annual inspections and regular maintenance of all bleacher systems, the only danger fans will ever have to face is their team being down when the buzzer sounds.

[1]International Building Code Section 1028.1.1 requires compliance with ICC 300 “Bleachers, Folding and Telescopic Seating, and Grandstands”

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