Loading Arm Integration with Fall Protection Equipment

A Series on Design & Best Practices for Loading & Unloading Truck & Railcars

When the Google search begins for a loading arm, the amount of information that pops up after typing a few words in the search bar can be a bit overwhelming. The results are filled with information from dozens of companies a particular loading arm manufacturer has set up as a distributor to sell their product as well as the manufacturer themselves. This can create confusion as you navigate through the noise of various rep companies and distributors looking to gain your attention with some having limited knowledge of liquid and gas handling and merely having a loading arm on a long list of items they sell. Many factors must be considered when selecting a loading arm such as the technology behind a particular manufacturer’s swivel joints, leak detection, correct seal material selection, vapor recovery, dry break coupler systems, breakaway devices, overfill prevention, pipe stress and nozzle load calculations, ease of maintenance, permissives to shut down loading if there is an issue, drive off prevention, arm heating, cold weather operation, load arm position indicators, welding and testing standards such as API 1104 & ASME B31.4 and ergonomics are but a few and often overlooked or never considered by a distributor. It’s a safe bet that selecting a partner familiar with liquid and gas handling who can take part in your team’s PHA and PSSR is a safe way to ensure you are choosing the best solution for your next loading arm need. A full look into loading arm design will be coming up soon in a future Spotlight.

Truck & Railcar Loading Solutions-1

Will my loading arm work with my new or existing truck or rail car loading rack?

For this discussion we will look at the question: Will my loading arm work with my new or existing truck or rail car loading rack? In other words, can the loading arm be integrated into the loading rack and work with other dynamic equipment such as safe access and fall prevention cages, overhead obstructions such as canopies and roofs, piping, valves and other associated equipment typically found at loading rack sites and then store out of any railcar or truck clearance envelopes. Loading arms are dynamic as they move up/down, left/right and most of the issues where clashes can occur are related to the equipment used to protect operators from falls from height while working on top of trucks and rail cars. This same safe access and fall prevention equipment which typically incorporates safety cages or platforms with handrails is also dynamic. It must elevate up and down or articulate out of the way to safely store when not in use to prevent being hit by the trucks or rail cars being serviced at the loading rack.

Loading arm to work with a safety cage system

In one scenario, for example, it must be considered how the loading arm will work with a safety cage system that sits on top of a tank truck for fall prevention. The safety cage is used to meet OSHA 1910 falls from height standards and is about 42” above the truck walking/working surface, so now the loading arm must be able to go up and over the safety cage system when its deployed. If there is a low canopy or roof overhead or some other obstructions, the length of the loading arm drop tube required to connect to the truck may cause the loading arm to hit the overheard structure or obstruction and not allow the loading arm drop tube to go up and over the safety cage. In addition, the storage location of the arm must be considered to allow an operator to safely gain access to the loading arm and maneuver the arm into position and not clash with the safe access equipment storage position or other equipment or piping. The integration of the loading arm into a loading rack system can become quite complex and if you’re dealing with a representative with little experience or knowledge that does not know the questions to ask and ability to point out potential clashes, can lead you to a costly field problem. This is just a simple example to demonstrate some of the thought process that must be put into a properly designed loading arm.

Truck & Railcar Loading Solutions-2

Many times, loading arms are purchased from one company and the loading rack with fall prevention is purchased from another supplier. This is not an issue if you’re working with a company that has the knowledge and capabilities to engineer the system and provide models that demonstrate the working and stored positions of the loading arm and safe access equipment will indeed work together. The same applies be it a new loading spot or retrofit to an existing site. But it does go beyond that. Many providers of loading racks that pop up in the Google search specialize in fall protection and are steel and aluminum fabricators but do not specialize in liquid and gas handling and distribute loading arms more as an accessory item to sell with a loading rack. As outlined earlier, selecting loading arms involves many considerations and working with a company who understands liquid and gas handling, process piping, loading rack design, pipe welding and testing procedures and can help with your PHA and PSSR, is key to ensuring you get a loading arm that works, is safe to operate, and considers all the criteria mentioned earlier. It may be time to rethink how you go about specifying and buying your loading arms. Does it make sense to buy such an important piece of your plants piping system from a distributor with a line card of items from ear plugs and safety glasses to cross over units or a loading rack company who may specialize in fall protection but has limited knowledge of liquid and gas handling aside getting on top of a railcar or truck? A question to ponder before your next project.

To discuss your next truck or railcar loading or unloading project, please contact Pete Singleton at S&S Technical – pete@skidsolutions.com

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