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Enhancing Safety and Productivity in Chemical Manufacturing

How bringing railcar and rooftop work at height into OSHA/ANSI compliance adds operational efficiencies to chemical manufacturing facilities.

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Published on: April 9, 2024

Chemistry sets for kids began to boom in popularity in the early 1900s and were often marketed as an inspiration to future chemists. However, they were in decline by the 1970s partly because of the Toy Safety Act of 1969. Fortunately, young people are still motivated to become chemists and work in the chemical and petrochemical industries and play a vital role in producing basic and specialty chemicals for agriculture, plastics, construction materials, pharmaceuticals, petroleum products, and other essential sectors 

As expected, explosive and toxic substances in chemical and petrochemical plants have led to many safety regulations. What may be under-appreciated is that production and maintenance workers at these facilities are often required to work at height. This is especially true for loading, unloading, inspecting, and maintaining railcars.  

Railcar safety solutions from all angles.

The volume of railcar traffic at chemical and petrochemical plants dictates that companies install safe access systems and professionally train employees on the use of safety equipment. Fall protection measures for railcars include:

Guardrails: Installing guardrails around the perimeter of railcar access areas provides a physical barrier to prevent workers from accidentally falling to lower levels and into dangerous loading and unloading areas. They can be permanent or temporary guardrails and include self-closing gates that should meet OSHA standards for their ability to protect workers. 

Lifelines: Workers accessing the top of railcars should wear safety harnesses securely attached to single-span or multi-span overhead lifelines and anchorages. 

Rigid Rail: A trolley beam rigid rail system with an enclosed track eliminates the buildup of dust, debris, snow, ice, and other contaminants. It is equipped with a retractable lifeline to prevent an in-line swing-fall. 

Portable Stairways: Employing access equipment such as portable stairs, ladders, and platforms with handrails enables workers to safely ascend and descend from railcars to perform various inspection and maintenance tasks.  

The versatility of work platform safety solutions.

Modular work platforms can be used for employees to access railcars and other areas in chemical and petrochemical plants. They should be constructed of anodized aluminum or galvanized steel bases, frames, and guardrails for strength, durability, and corrosion resistance and fitted with anti-slip treads for steps and platform floors.

Permanent work platforms and rooftop walkways are installed to control access to elevated equipment that require frequent use, maintenance, and system checks. Work platforms with heavy-duty locking casters provide station-to-station mobility. Custom work platforms can be designed for special duties, hard-to-reach spaces, and other needs. Maintenance, inspection, and repair applications for fall protection work platforms can include: 

  • Storage Tanks 
  • Pipe Racks and Networks 
  • Loading and Unloading 
  • Processing Equipment (e.g., reactors, distillation columns, heat exchangers) 
  • Equipment Installation (e.g., pumps, compressors, valves) 
  • Rooftop Systems (e.g., HVAC, electrical, communications, solar panels) 

What’s the bottom line?

When employees are exposed to risks, organizations are exposed to risks. However, when fall hazards are addressed through practical and complaint engineered safety solutions and measures, the work certainly becomes less stressful. Many operations are pleasantly surprised to find boosts to profits right alongside boosts to morale. The data shows that when operations invest in safety it is an investment in culture and a decision that can yield significant returns. A study by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that companies that prioritize health and safety measures are more likely to have a competitive edge in the marketplace even after 13 years. Investments in health and safety can yield returns as high as 333%, much greater than the returns of 105% for the S&P 500 over the same period. It saves to be safe.

Which solution is right for you?

If you are responsible for worker safety at a chemical or petrochemical plant, contact Flexible Lifeline Systems. We can discuss your needs and concerns about regulatory compliance, visit your site to conduct a safety audit and map out a plan. Our services can include as little or as much as you need, from design, engineering, and fabrication to installation, training, and other support.

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