Investing in the right fall prevention equipment is an important part of mitigating the risk of injuries and fatalities in the workplace and improving rail safety. Loading and unloading rail cars presents several safety hazards, especially when offset crashboxes are involved.
A crashbox or operator platform is the built-in railing area that surrounds the hatch opening or valves on a rail car. An opening for workers to walk through should be centered within the crashbox. When it’s not centered, the crashbox is considered to be offset.
The Dangers Of Offset Crashboxes
When a crashbox/operator platform is offset, working conditions become more dangerous for workers. Several risks are associated with offset crashboxes, including spotting the gangway and fall prevention.
To access the hatch or valve, a worker must first line up the gangway with the opening of the crashbox so an operator is able to walk to the top of the rail car. At the same time, a human spotter is on the ground, walking alongside the rail car. There may also be employees keeping sight of a mark or ladder on the car to provide guidance as the worker lines up the crashbox with the gangway.
The most difficult part is that spotting is an art, not a science. Often, workers experience difficulty when determining how to properly spot a crashbox.
A common question is whether it’s better to spot the box with a gangway or a rail car safety cage. When workers are forced to choose between spotting with a gangway or a safety cage, the cage is usually neglected. This not only interferes with loading and unloading, but it puts workers at risk of falling.
The first priority is to ensure workers can safely access the top of the car. The second priority is to accomplish the job without falling off the car. Inadequate protection and gaps between equipment make this difficult, which is why spotting the safety cage correctly is so important.
Complications In The Work Environment
Offset crashboxes also cause additional complications in the work environment. Throughput is most commonly affected, as it takes longer to get the job done. For example, if you can’t get the loading arm in place, the car must be moved. This may cause delays in loading or unloading.
Additionally, an inability to reach the arm or hose may cause workers to take unsafe actions in attempt to get it down. Taking shortcuts or engaging in unsafe activities may lead to falls, injuries and potentially death.
Safety Solutions For Offset Crashboxes
Due to the dangers of offset crashboxes, your rail safety plan needs to include detailed instructions for employees who frequently work with them. Investing in rail safety solutions may also help minimize the risk of injury or death for workers.
One of the best solutions is to mount systems on a track that allows you to roll a gangway with fall protection equipment. The portability solves some challenges associated with offset crashboxes and spotting, as it provides more freedom to adjust the cages as needed.
Another solution is to use an elevated rail car safety cage that offers greater coverage. In particular, you should implement a cage that provides complete fall protection for operators while working on top of rail cars.
Want to learn more about offset crashbox safety? Watch this free webinar from Carbis Solutions to discover fall protection solutions and ways to improve rail safety.