All too often, requests come in for a quick fix solution. An existing or potential client calls in after seeing a solution at another site or many times from searching the internet. The caller asks for specific equipment that they have determined will solve their issues or challenges. Once we dive into the heart of what they are attempting do and what they are hoping this equipment will do for them, additional concerns always come to light. It is this point that the phrase “This is not as simple as I thought” is spoken by the caller. Gaining safe access to the tops of vehicles, typically during the loading and unloading process, can be a very complex decision. I hope to share some insight on how to make this task easier to understand as well as help define why consultants ask for specific information.
It all starts with the operator. The first thing anyone needs to understand in great detail, is what the operators needs to do, and how do you see them doing this? We all know that there are many ways to accomplish the same goal. If a methodology is not spelled out clearly, the access and fall protection equipment you are seeking to purchase could interfere with your process. Many times companies perform a Job Hazard Analysis or JHA that detail out the procedures of an application by listing out each task in a step by step process. This information is them used to identify the potential hazard points, which in many cases, prompted the call in the first place. Sharing this vital information with your supplier is a good first step.
Many times suppliers ask for MSDS Data Sheet information on what is being loading or unloading. This information is critical in deciding many of the variables that go into developing a solution. The MSDS Data Sheets will tell us what PPE the operator is required to wear. It will tell us of any environmental hazards to guard against. It will aid in determining the material of construction. Understanding what is being loading or unloading may even determine how the process needs to be performed – liquid are loaded/unloaded differently from gases and solids.
The next item of consideration are the vehicles themselves. What type of vehicle will need to be loaded or unloaded? Will these vehicles all be of the same, size, and configuration with the same connection points? Where will the operator require access on these vehicles? Who controls the type of vehicles that the site received? Could any of these answers change over time – 2 years or 5 years out? All too often we see stations designed for one type of vehicle attempting to service an array of other vehicle types. A common example is a tank truck loading station attempting to service ISO containers. Doing this can expose an operator and company to potential near miss incidents, or worst case injury accidents which may lead to someone being hurt and a potential citation.
Regardless if you are retrofitting to an existing Loading Platform or installing a new platform, site measures will be required. Be sure to note any and all constraints. What other process equipment is around that might interfere with an operator’s free flow of movement. What overhead obstructions are present? Will anything need to be moved or relocated? Pay attention to traffic pattern of vehicles entering and existing – is there adequate space to maneuver? Are there any power lines in the area?
Other items of consideration are installation and maintenance. Please be sure to walk through a detail process of how the equipment will be installed with the general contractor supplier of the solution or both. For example - Typically safety bridge/ramp/gangway are face mounted to the edge of the structure which requires a flat 8” surface. Careful consideration needs to be made to the structure design including the member type and size as well as how the walk surface grating is attached. Please note how the safety bridge/ramp/gangway will mounted to an existing platform if you are retrofitting. Many times field modification are required without anyone being aware of it until the equipment shows up.
These items just brush the surface of the many challenges companies face when selecting fall protection equipment that ensures operators safety. The old saying – “the devil is in the details” is all too true in many of these applications. Each situation has its own set of unique needs and constraints that need to be carefully evaluated when operator safety is at risk. While some solutions may appear to be very similar, to gain maximum protection each solution should be tailored and engineered to their needs and constraints.
Christopher Roark, the author of this post, is the International Sales Manager for GREEN Access & Fall Production a division of Benko Products, Inc. He can be reached at 919-670-6266 or cjroark -at- benkoproductions -dot- com. GREEN Access & Fall Production has been a trusted leader in safety equipment for more than 50 years, designing and building the industry’s leading access and fall protection equipment for trucks and railcars and other industrial needs. For more information on GREEN Access & Fall Protection, please visit www.green-mfg.com.