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Safety should follow the science

One of the trending statements of 2020, irrespective of where you are reading this is, “we are following the science”. This can give rise to a nodding of sage heads or snorts of derision, from whichever side of the scientific or political spectrum you care to be.

ALEC KEELER, Managing Director, Carbis Loadtec Group

So how do you approach the selection of safety equipment that you may not be personally using, but selecting for someone else to use?

  • Do you start off with a budget and try to get what you can for the money?
  • Do you choose what you’ve seen or experienced before, knowing it will tick a box?
  • Or, do you follow the science to make your choice?

Science? Safety equipment? It’s a simple application of risk and the factors that prevail in a certain situation. Yes, you can apply science to help you make selection of safety systems. More on that later.

The liquid handling industry is full of risks. There are risks associated with handling products and risks connected with using equipment. Our company, in its original form, was set up 24 years ago primarily to sell fluid loading and unloading systems. Increasingly, the company is supplying total solutions that make a difference to the whole working environment. These are focussed on making the operator functions safer, ergonomic and fool proof.

Every bulk liquid storage facility must guarantee safe truck loading operations. Working at height remains one of the prevalent causes of fatalities and major injuries, with common cases caused by falls from ladders and slips or trips.

Companies involved in road transportation of bulk liquid chemicals must develop and follow best-practice standards and work with specialist contractors, industry bodies, governments and non-governmental organisations.

In 1999 the Chemical Industries Association (CIA) issued a publication called ‘Working on top of chemical tankers’ (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 addressed key themes including accident prevention, hierarchy of control measures and ‘safety as an efficiency’.

Accident prevention
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.

Hierarchy of control measures

To prevent falls from tankers, the following hierarchy of control measures need to be considered:

  1. Eliminate the need to access tops of tankers.
  2. Provision of a loading/unloading gantry.
  3. Consideration of tanker design features such as ladders, walkways and collapsible handrails.
  4. Portable ladders with platforms.
  5. Installation of fall arrest systems.

Hierarchy of control measures – Four simple words that tell you how you need to prioritise your thinking. The hierarchy

Safety should follow the science Carbis Loadtec article

works on the basis that if no method of preventing the fall exists in the first category, you proceed to the next category and then on to the next and finally, when there is nothing that can be done to prevent the fall; you can, with a clear conscience, install a fall arrest system.

Let’s be clear. 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 (fall arrest) are totally reliant on the competence or willingness of the operator to fit the harness correctly. The consequence of not doing that is very serious. Even when fitted correctly, the risk of Orthostatic Suspension after a very short time, is something that needs planning for and procedures must be in place to rescue a stricken operator quickly and safely.

As the director of a terminal or plant operator, your primary corporate aim is to provide a safe and clean working environment for your operators and visitors. To do this your obligation is to employ the best technology and working practices. All companies need to understand that safety is not necessarily a cost.

Safety as an efficiency

A safe and clean working environment promotes loyalty, a sense of worth – “the company is actually looking after me” – and, consequently the operator looks at how he can return that investment. A safe system can also reduce the manpower needed to undertake some tasks.

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.

The layout for a fall arrest system may seem cheapest in the short term. However, the constant monitoring required to ensure all workers utilise the equipment safely will soon see costs start to escalate. The long-term cost of a system that needs constant monitoring will, over time, far outweigh the capital savings made in its initial selection. Also, consider the constant presence of a rescue team to ensure there are no long terms effects.

There are two types of safety system: passive or active.
Active involves the operator undertaking tasks, before he can do the job he is there to do. These can be key interlocks; closing barriers; moving and positioning mobile access carts; or putting on harnesses and physically climbing up the back end of the tanker. Changing weather conditions and the monotony of the repetitive tasks will soon have your worker looking for easier ways to get the job done more quickly.

Passive is where the operator walks up an easy staircase, presses a button and walks out onto the tanker top. No harnesses to put on; no slippery tanker barrels to negotiate; no constraints; only a secure cage to surround the working area to prevent him falling; time saved is about five or maybe ten minutes. Stress level is zero. He doesn’t have to move the vehicle because everything has been designed to eliminate that extra risk. He gets the job done quickly, safely and without someone having to watch him with the consequential associated costs.

Of course, there are degrees of safety. The more you spend the safer it gets.

Following the Science

But ask yourself this: Which safety system would you rather be using? The answer to that can be found in “the science”. Carbis Safety should follow the science Carbis Loadtec articleLoadtec Group has developed a measurement that can be applied to each and every tanker loading and unloading spot anywhere in the world, with the resulting score that allows the owner company to decide their level of risk.

If a person falls from a tanker top which is 4.0 metres high, they will be travelling at 32 kph when they meet the ground. This rarely results in minor injuries and, too often, is a cause of death.

The measurement of the tanker top activities is based on the Fine & Kinney method, but this can only be applied to imagined scenarios, unless the assessment is being undertaken at site with observation of the actual operations. Therefore, the assessment applies to the equipment being used in isolation. The reason for being on the tanker (whether to load, unload, sample or inspect) cannot be considered. Also, the frequency of the action makes a major impact on the resulting score. Therefore, a system that is used multiple times per day, will have a higher probability of failure/accident due to the frequency it is used. However, the danger of using each type of system is not increased through frequency, it remains the same.

With this method, each of the three risk parameters must be determined:

  • Severity of injury linked to hazard (S);
  • Exposure to the hazard (E);
  • Probability of the hazard to occur when exposed (P).

These concepts are made operational so that a numerical method and a quantitative risk estimation can be made.

A risk index is created by ascribing numerical values to the severity of possible damage, the length of exposure and the probability of a risk.

The result of multiplying the parameters defines the risk-index: R = S x E x P.

The risk-index has five categories. Based on this risk-index the appropriate (technical) measures can be determined.Safety should follow the science Carbis Loadtec article

  1. Eliminate or reduce risks as far as possible (inherently safe machinery design and construction).
  2. Take the necessary protective measures in relation to risks that cannot be eliminated.
  3. Inform users of the residual risks due to any shortcomings of the protective measures adopted, indicate whether any particular training is required and specify any need to provide personal protective equipment.

Carbis Loadtec Group can survey your sites and study your working practices, helping you to identify hazards and provide you solutions based on actual data that suits each loading, unloading and inspection spot. It is science based, but with strong and long experience of how to apply the data correctly. We take pride in being your partner in safety.

The bulk fluid handling industries are very diverse with equally diverse needs; and still have a long way to go. Until safety and efficiency are inextricably linked, then we will continue to have unnecessary accidents.

Alec Keeler is managing director of Carbis Loadtec Group Ltd

For more information contact us.

View the article in Storage Terminals Magazine here