From unloading product from trucks to loading it into railcars, terminal tank storage operations can present many safety challenges. And falls are chief among them. Whether you’re transporting crude oil, liquid hydrocarbons, petroleum products or hazardous liquids, you should always be thinking about how to keep your crew safe from falls and other accidents.
Falls rank among the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) recently announced the preliminary Top-10 most frequently cited workplace safety violations for fiscal year 2015, and fall protection ranks at the top (with 6,721 citations for the year).
And the statistics aren’t getting any better. Fatalities from falls, slips and trips increased 10 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics. And transportation and material moving occupations accounted for the largest share (28 percent) of those fatal injuries of any occupation group. In fact, the work injuries in this group rose 3 percent in 2014 to 1,289 — the highest since 2008.
These accidents can also cause considerable financial burden for companies. Workers’ compensation and medical costs associated with occupational fall incidents have been estimated at approximately $70 billion annually in the U.S, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
All of this data underscores the importance of putting into place adequate fall protection methods and safety products. Accidents are preventable, and it’s vital that tank storage employers especially use effective workplace strategies to protect their crew.
OSHA’s Fall Protection Standards
Today’s OSHA standards require that fall protection be provided at the following elevations and higher, based on the venue:
- Four feet in general industry workplaces
- Five feet in shipyards
- Six feet in the construction industry
- Eight feet in longshoring operations
- Any height when employees are working over dangerous equipment and machinery (regardless of fall distance)
On-site tank storage also adds a layer of complexity when it comes to safety. Accompanying these above requirements, OSHA also provides some guidance around fall protection:
- Use a railing, industrial safety gates, floor hole cover or toe-board to guard all floor holes into which a worker can accidentally walk.
- Implement a guardrail and toe-board around every elevated open sided platform, floor or runway.
- Utilize guardrails and toe-boards to prevent workers from falling into or onto dangerous machines or equipment, regardless of the height.
- Determine if other fall protection systems for certain jobs are required, such as safety harnesses and lines, safety nets, stair railings and hand rails.
Another factor paramount to safe operations is adequate training. Personnel who are loading and unloading materials at tank storage sites must be instructed on safe procedures appropriate to the specific material they handle.
Advancements in Tank Storage Fall Protection Equipment
The most recent protection requirements from OSHA and other workplace safety governing organizations has led to an ongoing demand for smarter fall protection equipment. And the industrial marketplace has responded with advanced fall protection equipment that offers greater protection than ever before.
Staying up to date on these evolving fall protection technologies is critical to keeping your facility safe, but it can also be time consuming. Having a vendor with the industry knowledge of new and varied products — such as the high-protection lifeline cable system — can help with that.
Additionally, knowing how new or changed products impact and interact with your current system is just as critical as knowing what they are. And this takes a vendor that knows you and what your setup needs. For example, do your projects involve the loading and unloading of flammable or combustible liquids? If that’s the case, you need equipment with an added layer of safety. Working with these types of liquids, whether in truck or rail car tanks, is one of the most hazardous operations conducted at manufacturing or storage facilities. There’ve been cases where improper venting of truck and railcars cause tanks to implode or rupture. In an environment where unloading catastrophes such as this can occur, fall protection needs to be addressed on a whole other level.
In addition to appropriate protective equipment, safe work practices must also be established when loading or unloading tanks, cleaning up spills or leaks, or inspecting or performing maintenance activities on loading facilities.
Raising the Bar with an Expert Vendor
In recent years, there’s been a significant shift in crude oil transport from pipeline and barge to rail. With the increase in rail transport and subsequent rise in loading operations at tank storage facilities nationwide, tank storage safety is more important — and challenging — than ever. An expert vendor with knowledge of the market and OSHA regulations can help.
Because SafeRack sells a large range of safety and fall protection solutions, including elevating and articulating handrail systems, flatbed fall protection, ladder fall protection, lifeline cable systems and more, the team brings broad industry knowledge to every project.
The products SafeRack manufactures help eliminate workplace fatalities and injuries, and make fall protection compliance fast, easy and cost-effective. Whether complying with General Industry (OSHA 1910), Maritime (OSHA 1915) or Construction (OSHA 1926) requirements, SafeRack fall protection and safety systems support workplace safety without compromising productivity.