Bleachers, comfortable, necessary seating at sporting and special events are often taken for granted as a part of everyday life. The first true bleachers were wooden, and over the years progressed in a variety of shapes and sizes. Today’s bleachers may be permanent or portable, wooden, aluminum, plastic, or ever recycled materials. During their lifetime, bleachers carry the weight of fans, family, and friends. Bleachers can be grandstands, supported by steel I-Beams or Angle Frames. Bleachers can be elevated, like those at high school stadiums, or non-elevated, like those at little league games and pee-wee soccer matches.

Bleachers come in a multitude of options to meet with the unique needs of the sporting or special event they serve. Of course, regardless of their size, elevation, or portability, bleachers, above all, should be safe! To insure the safety of fans and spectators everywhere, bleachers are now designed according to the latest, stringent safety requirements referenced in the 2012 International Building Code and International Existing Building Code, specifically the ICC 300: Bleachers, Folding and Telescopic Seating, and Grandstands. The ICC 300: Bleachers, Folding and Telescopic Seating, and Grandstands addresses the construction and alteration of bleachers and grandstands and is the result of years to work by expert safety professionals.

It all began back in 1999, when the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported the deaths of two children, separate incidents, but both the result of falling from bleachers. In one case, a six-year old fell through an opening between the seatboard and footboard of the bleachers. In the second, a three-year-old fell through a guardrail opening.

On further investigation, the CPSC found 10 deaths from 1980 to 1999, caused by falling from bleachers. In addition, they found that on average19,100 bleacher related injuries were treated in emergency rooms annually, including 22,100 in 1999 alone. Of those, 6,100 occurred as a result of falling, and 4,910 were children 15 years old or younger.

Understanding the significance of these incidents, the CPSC, with federal legislation sought to develop a bleacher safety standard. A roundtable on Bleachers and Grandstands was formed and in March of 2000, ICC Consensus Committee on Bleacher Safety (IS-BLE) was tasked with the development of a standard for all bleacher seating, new and existing.

The original safety standards were updated in 2007, and in 2010 another update was planned. The codes were revised into the latest 2012 edition, the ICC 300: Bleachers, Folding and Telescopic Seating, and Grandstands which includes the need for fire alarms, aisle requirements, row adjustments, load combinations, handrail requirements, and a number of other provisions. A new addition is currently underway and scheduled for release in 2018, with the goal of continuing to keep the fans and spectators safe and enjoying their favorite sporting and special events.