Two of the fall protection systems are installed at Intergulf

Safely Aloft

The height and cylindrical shape of tanker trucks can pose a real safety risk to workers who have to climb around on top of them.

Fall protection was number one among the top 10 most frequently cited federal OSHA standards in 2012. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the leading cause of worker deaths on construction sites is falling. In 2011, a staggering 35 percent of total deaths in construction were due to an unprotected fall. While the existing OSHA general industry standards recognize the use of guardrails and physical barriers as the primary methods for employee protection against falls, those standards also recognize that personal fall protection systems can provide more effective means for employee protection.

Like OSHA, our engineers believe that the majority of slips, trips, and falls are preventable. We also recognizes the importance of allowing employers the flexibility to decide which fall protection system works best for their particular operation, while also ensuring that their employees receive a sufficient level of protection.

Choosing an effective fall protection system is dependent upon each company’s unique application, along with the federal guidelines outlined for that particular industry. While federal guidelines outline the need for effective employee protection against potential falls, the standard for employees who work atop tanker trucks is unclear. Most tanker trucks are approximately 14 feet tall. This height, combined with the cylindrical shape of the tanks, can pose a real safety risk to workers who have to climb around on top of them. Stephen Wallace, environmental health and safety manager for Intergulf Corporation, recognized the importance of fall protection as a necessary component to ensure the total safety of his workers who go atop the trucks.

Intergulf Corporation is a leading industrial liquids management company specializing in procuring, blending, treating, and processing petroleum, petrochemical co-products, and waste streams. The company manages three facilities that are strategically located along the Houston Ship Channel and operates in five business segments: waste and recycle, petroleum products, marine services, distillation, and hazardous waste transportation.

Wallace began to investigate various fall protection systems in 2012 to help ensure the safety of workers who perform routine duties on top of tanker trucks at three separate facilities. Those facilities now feature a total of six fall protection systems, all specially customized to meet the unique needs of each facility and to eliminate potential fall hazards.

Fall Protection Systems at the Bay Port Facility
Three of the six fall protection systems are located in Pasadena, Texas, at the company’s Bay Port facility, which is used for wastewater and oil recycling. These systems ensure the protection of workers who sample, treat, load, and unload liquid waste from the tops of tanker trucks.

There is a 70-foot-long fall protection system in "the pit," which is an area workers use to load and unload waste materials. This particular system fits one truck and includes one fall protection track that runs parallel with the truck beneath it. It also includes four columns, two headers, and two self-retracting lifelines (SRLs) so that two workers can connect to the system at any given time.

The second fall protection system at the Bay Port facility is located in the sampling area, which is used for taking samples of waste materials and for loading and unloading trucks. Engineers specifically designed this system to meet their needs in regard to space and size. The system is heavily customized to include a 70-foot fall protection track that extends out from columns with boom arms that lock into place. The boom arms allow adequate support for the track without the need for headers. The track covers a total of six trucks--five between the columns and one at the end. This one-of-a-kind system includes seven SRLs and runs perpendicular to the trucks beneath it, allowing for maximum use of space and time.

The third system at this facility is located in the containment area. This area is set up similar to a long driveway, where trucks can pull in and out in a single line and workers can access the waste materials from the top. Engineers designed a 300-foot system to accommodate the needs of this part of the facility. The system fits five trucks and includes one lifeline that runs parallel with trucks, seven headers, 14 columns, and ten SRLs.

Fall Protection Systems at the Marine Terminal and Route 225
Two of the fall protection systems we designed are installed at Intergulf's Marine Terminal facility, also located on the Houston Ship Channel. The Marine Terminal is Intergulf's transfer facility, which is used to unload barges to ship materials to different locations.

Both of the systems at the Marine Terminal facility were designed to accommodate two trucks at any given time. These systems are slightly different than the four other systems installed at Intergulf; instead of including one fall protection track, the systems at Marine Terminal include two rigid tracks that run parallel to the trucks. Each of the two systems is 70 feet long and can accommodate two trucks. Both include two headers, but only one of the systems includes four columns. The other system includes two columns on one side and is fully supported on the other side by a pipe bridge. Engineers designed this system to accommodate several components of the Marine Terminal facility, in order to achieve a multi-functional and ergonomic design and to maximize space. Each system includes four SRLs (two are installed on each track) for a grand total of eight. Part of the distinct nature of this "two banger" system is that the SRLs on each track can cross over one another because they are running on two separate tracks.

The final system is installed at Intergulf's Route 225 facility, which is used for product blending and processing. The only system installed at Intergulf that includes four fall protection tracks, this system accommodates four trucks and runs parallel with them. It includes eight columns, two headers, and a total of eight SRLs.

Many of these six fall protection systems were completely customized for maximum efficiency and to meet the needs of Intergulf's unique applications. Wallace said the company "is more than happy with the end result." He also noted two of the six systems were installed in one day, while the others took only two days to complete.

This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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