Grain Loading Operation Chooses Rigid Rail Fall Protection over Cable

An Iowa cooperative utilized a proven approach to fall protection at a 7-million-bushel concrete rail loading elevator in Vincent, IA.

The New Cooperative Inc. facility loads 100-car unit trains on a Union Pacific branch line through two separate loading points simultaneously. The loading points are gravity spouts outfitted with Kyoat metering systems. Using automated loadout controls from two points allows workers to load a five-car string in 15 to 20 minutes.

New Cooperative installed a fall protection unit during the fall and winter of 2000-01 and turned to Fall Protection Systems because of its I-beam design. "If someone falls on a cable system, we would have to take it out of service until it could be retested," says Dennis Knight, director of safety and loss control.

The Vincent elevator is one of six rail loading sites the coop operates, all of which will have fall protection installed by the end of 2002. "We built at Vincent first because it was the most potentially dangerous," Knight says. "Because of the way the loadout is set up, workers would have to climb up the side of the railcar and stay on top until the car was ready to move."

The system is a lengthy one, spanning a little over 300 feet or a little more than five railcar lengths, in order to cover both loadout points. In addition to the I-beam system, Fall Protection Systems designed and installed two stairway accesses at each loadout location, and New Coop mounted electronic loadout controls at the top of each staircase. This allows workers to control spout operation without having to stand on top of the railcars, though they still need access to railcars in order to open and seal hatches.

"We also bought individual harnesses for each worker, with shoulder pads for summer use," Knight says. "Some of our employees have a second harness designed to fit over bulky clothes during the winter. At first, some of our employees were reluctant to use the system, but when they saw how it freed up their hands to work on top of railcars, they were more accepting. We load in ice, snow, sleet, rain, and hail, and once they get used to the system, they feel safer under those conditions."

This case study was pulled from an article in the July/August 2001 Issue of Grain Journal by Ed Zdrojewski.