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Doug Ingram, general manager of Green Access and Fall Protection, outlines how to promote operator safety and facilitate access in truck loading processes by selecting the proper protection equipment.

Operators loading and unloading tall vehicles such as isotainers, tanker trucks and railcars require two things: sufficient access and safety, including fall protection.

Falling from atop one of these vehicles – which may be several stories tall – could result in serious injury or death.

OSHA regulations mandate that employers must provide fall protection equipment that addresses the risk factors present.

Ensuring operator stability during loading and unloading is also crucial, as dry bulk and liquid products are heavy and often awkward to handle – making a stable working surface all the more necessary.

Safety also includes protection from adverse weather conditions, including rain and heavy wind.

Fall protection equipment, such as truck loading platforms, must not reduce operator accessibility to keep operations running smoothly.

If a safety hoop protects an operator during the loading/unloading process, but he or she cannot properly access the vehicle, this equipment cannot be regarded as a successful solution.

In addition to these considerations, access and fall protection equipment should be selected based upon the application flexibility and longevity it provides.

To further increase the effectiveness of this solution, equipment may be customised to accommodate specific application parameters such as challenging weather conditions and taller-than-standard vehicles.

All truck loading racks should provide operators with a stable walking surface with a non-skid grip strut design, and each means of access – including safety stairs and gangways, also called safety bridges – can deliver additional specialised safety features.

Safety stairs, suitable for applications where the working distance is greater than 15deg, are manufactured with a supportive, rigid design to facilitate access to an elevated walkway.

Gangways, designed to grant operators access to the top of a vehicle in instances where the working range is within 15deg above or below the platform height, feature welded stops to prevent it from travelling beyond a predetermined position.

Both aluminum gangways and safety stairs may offer enhanced stability with galvanized steel back box sections and back uprights.

Adjustable chain stops may be added to safety stairs or gangways to make them self-supporting, further enhancing stability.

Loading racks provide heavy-duty construction and are designed to facilitate access to vehicles such as isotainers and tanker trucks that may need to be loaded in harsh outdoor environments.

They offer a selection of one of several access options, including safety stairs and gangways – both of which feature tubular handrails and mid-rails for operator safety and stability, as well as to satisfy OSHA standards.

Another element is a telescoping mid-rail design, which lessens the concerns with traditional mid-rails featuring slotted connections.

As a slotted connection yields an inflexible barrier, if installed incorrectly, the mid-rail could break when force is applied.

The telescoping mid-rail is easier to install, and its flexible design ensures even an improperly installed telescoping mid-rail will still provide sufficient fall protection.

For applications where the use of access and fall protection equipment is limited or where permanent truck loading platforms and foundations are impractical, portable platforms are a fitting option.

They can give operators a rugged loading area, with an adjustable height ranging from nine to 13ft, or can serve as a maintenance work platform.

To provide superior access and fall protection for operators loading tank/bulk trucks, an elevating platform offers a push-button operated platform that is self-supporting, with no need to rest on top of the vehicle during the loading process.

This elevating platform can be designed in lengths varying from 5ft to 30ft, depending upon the application, but it only utilises a single mast.

This design saves the installation time and costs required to create a second foundation, which would otherwise be needed to support this equipment.

Substituting manual operation with push-button initiated machine screw actuation creates a simple-to-use design.

The platform is paired with railing fall protection for all typical ports on a tanker truck.

Along with its ability to be customised to meet specific application parameters, the elevating platform and fall protection can be designed to retrofit to existing platforms.

Its rugged, rigid steel construction ensures these elevating platforms withstand harsh weather conditions and loading applications involving corrosive materials.

For additional protection in adverse conditions, canopies – either half sized, if operators are filling vehicles from one side of a loading rack only, or full sized for dual-sided loading operations – are designed to cover the access equipment and shield operators from the elements.

Canopies may also help preserve the integrity of the product to be loaded, as it keeps extra moisture from rainy conditions from infiltrating the product.

Many companies work with a variety of vehicles in their day-to-day operations – isotainers one day and tanker trucks the next.

For this reason, access and fall protection equipment should be flexible to handle common application concerns.

Adjustable reach gangways provide operators access to vehicles of varying heights and lengths with ease, making them optimal for accessing railroad tank cars.

This equipment features an extendable portion of the gangway that may be manually initiated by the operator and locked securely into place.

Another example of access equipment that contributes to application flexibility is the slide-track – access equipment comprised of a slide-track carriage that glides along a slide-track on the gangway.

The slide-track can be manufactured in custom sizes and moves left to right to ensure operators can reach rail cars and trucks that have been mis-spotted.

As railing extended upon this entire length would be impractical, the slide-track carriage features built-in swing gates that are three feet wide and feature the top-rail, mid-rail and toe plate design that meets OSHA requirements.

This arrangement is suitable for accessing vehicles with a single dome; for those that feature three domes, the slide-track is offered with a platform that moves along the track and features a safety hoop at the end to provide fall protection – ensuring access to all three domes.

Another important component of a successful access and fall protection equipment solution is longevity.

Equipment that offers durability and a long service life does more than increase return on investment: it provides reliability in mission-critical processes and ensures operator safety.

Because harsh outdoor conditions can quickly take their toll on these structures, the equipment selected should be designed specifically for the geographical zone in which the application is located.

This may require that the equipment is custom made to withstand challenges such as extreme rainfall and high winds in hurricane-prone areas.

Access and fall protection equipment may be manufactured from carbon steel, aluminum or fibreglass – or custom fabricated with a combination of each.

Aluminum is lightweight, making it optimal for applications where an extendable safety bridge or similar, manually adjusted equipment is required, and it will not rust under ordinary use.

However, application environments where the materials such as HCl or acid is used in the loading process, the aluminum should be galvanized or epoxy-coated to prevent corrosion.

In addition to the above factors, the more tailored the equipment is to the application, the better – as it helps ensure operators receive the best protection available while promoting operator efficiency.

It is important to note that ‘custom’ does not need to mean ‘expensive’.

Custom equipment often does not cost much beyond standard product offerings, but the added safety and durability it delivers is worth the investment, according to Ingram.

Whether a canopy has been extended in length to accommodate an unusually large vehicle, or an oversized walkway has been designed for enhanced operator comfort – the most effective solution is the one personalised for the loading process.

Green Access and Fall Protection Equipment

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