This article has been reproduced from Hazardous Cargo Magazine November 2016 issue.
Tanker Loading • Alec Keeler, Managing Director of Loadtec Engineered Systems, asks whether anything has really changed in 20 years
Everything changes … or does it? Assumptions are made every day in business and one of those is that, as technology advances, our world becomes safer. Look at air travel: despite some well publicised recent incidents, air travel remains one of the safest form of transport, with the number of fatalities having been in constant decline since the mid-1990s. Aircraft today are bitter, better, more efficient and safer than ever.
Can the same be said about road tanker loading? There are risks associated with handling products and risks connected with using and repairing equipment. These risks existed 20 or 30 years ago and continue to exist today. Let’s take a quick look at what has not changed in the last 20 years:
- tankers are still between 3.2 and 4.2 metres high
- the condition of tankers fluctuates greatly
- tanker walkways are widely variable and, occasionally, just not there
- solvents are dangerous/flammable/toxic/environmental hazards
- tanker driver competence is variable
- concrete is very hard and humans are very soft
SO WHAT’S NEW?
In 1999 the UK Chemical Industries Association (CIA) issued a publication called Working on top of chemical tankers, which was last updated in 2012. This went on to form an important part of the Work at Height Regulations introduced in 2005. Section three of the publication states addressed key themes including accident prevention, hierarchy of control measures and ‘safety as an efficiency’.
Where working on top of tankers or tank containers is deemed necessary, the risks to consider will include falls from a height, access and egress, contact with product and exposure to fumes. To prevent falls from tankers, the following hierarchy of control measures needs to be considered:
- eliminate the need to access tops of tankers
- provision of a loading/unloading gantry
- tanker design features such as ladders, walkways and collapsible handrails
- use of portable ladders with platforms
- installation of fall arrest systems.
This hierarchy tells the operator how to prioritise controls. What it says is that, if tank top access is unavoidable and no other fall prevention method is possible, then a fall arrest system must be put in place.
Fall prevention does just that: it prevents the fall from taking place. Fall arrest hopes to minimise the consequence of the fall that has already taken place. The harness and wire systems of fall arrest are totally reliant on the competence or willingness of the operator to fit the harness correctly. The consequences of not doing so can be very serious.
SAFETY AS EFFICIENCY
Any director of a terminal or plant has the primary corporate aim of providing a safe and clean working environment for site employees and the public. That means using the best technology and working practices – and this is non-negotiable.
Safety is not about constraint. Done correctly, it provides a working environment where choice is restricted, but movement is not. The operator, faced with a repetitive task that involves manual input, will always try to find short cuts - ways of saving their precious time, reducing their inconvenience and generally making their lives easier.
Whether using top or bottom loading, and whether the product is hazardous or not, eventually an operator will be required to get onto a tanker for inspection or cleaning. So the question remains: how do you get an operator onto and off the tanker in complete safety?
Loadtec Engineered Systems was set up almost 20 years ago primarily to sell loading arms but, increasingly, the company is supplying total solutions that make a difference to the whole working environment.
The simple folding stairs with safety cage has been the go-to solution for as long as I have been in the industry (a very long time!). But with the tightening of legislation and the variation in tanker profiles and walkway configurations, a better and safer solution is required.
Cue the multi-modal: a vertically elevating platform that can be between 4 and 15 metres in length. It travels through a standard 1.5-m range (more if you want), with a built-in floor that is removable wherever access to the tanker top is needed, with the added benefit of being able to tilt to match the slope on a tanker top.
These systems have been sold successfully by Loadtec since 1996 all over the world. Multi-modals are utterly reliable and provide foolproof safety with ease of operation. They are manufactured to globally accepted standards and are used by virtually all blue chip pharmaceutical companies somewhere in the world. What is more interesting is they are relatively cheap considering the lifespan and advantages they bring.
A CASE IN POINT
Loadtec was approached by a multinational refiner to update an old loading shed at its facility on the south coast of England. The issue was that the infrastructure, built in the 1950s, was designed for truck stock that was a lot smaller. Now they were receiving 4.2-m ISO tankers and the existing access arrangements were no longer appropriate.
The client was interested in the multi-modal but were concerned that the amount of space available would not be sufficient. In actual fact, these units are generally speaking quite compact. Each one is custom designed to suit the particular application so for most applications, with thoughtful design, a multi-modal can be fitted in even the most awkward of spaces.
In this instance, because the platform was only 3.4 m high, Loadtec also designed and built a mini step-up platform to be installed on the existing platform. This allowed the access to the modal to be brought up to the 4 m recommended height, meaning that the folding stair was never at too acute an angle during use.
The client’s original plan was to re-use the existing fixed reach top loading arms. This is something that needs to be considered carefully when integrating old and new equipment. The working envelope of the loading arm needs to be empathetic with any new access equipment. Eventually in this case two new arms were provided, which were able to serve both sides of the access platform. This meant that even while the multi-modal was being installed, loading could continue as planned on the other side of the platform, using the legacy folding stair.
The new arms had a far greater range than those they replaced and were also manual telescopic arms. The previous arms had a 2.5-m long drop pipe to prevent splash loading; this made them unwieldy to move and difficult to park. The new telescopic arms did away with the need for such a long drop pipe and as such improved the ergonomics of the situation.
This example also illustrates the benefits of engaging a single provider for safety and liquid transfer solutions, where there is a crucial need to integrate loading and access equipment. The scope of a project can vary quite a lot from the start to its implementation and the equipment design needs to reflect that; any provider should be able to adjust the equipment accordingly without compromising on the safety aspect.
With well established manufacturing facilities for loading arms and access equipment in Europe and the US, Loadtec has safely delivered safe and efficient solutions to bulk liquid transfer and access systems globally.