Frito Lay Uses FPS System for Safe Cleaning of Railcars

Fall Protection Systems Inc. was the vendor of choice far fall protection equipment at the other end of the Corn Belt at Frito-Lay Inc.'s 3-million-bushel corn receiving elevator in Gothenburg, NE.

This fall protection unit is used as part of a "wet cleaning" station for railcars and is located some distance away from the elevator structure.

"We are basically a single-car shipper, and we have a pool of covered hopper cars from Union Pacific that we use to ship food-grade corn to our chip plants," says Operations Manager Christian Freberg.

Normally, these railcars cycle back and forth between the chip plants and Gothenburg and require relatively little maintenance and cleaning in between round trips. However, during peak demand seasons for Frito-Lay products such as during the summer or holidays, the company must bring in "free-runners" from Union Pacific to haul the extra corn needed.

"Often, it's hard to tell what the railroad had in those cars before, and we need to get them up to food-grade standards," Freberg says. "We can do some dry cleaning in our loadout shed, but we need the outdoor station for wet cleaning the cars with pressurized water, bath inside and out."

There was never any question that there would be fall protection equipment at the station, not just because of the usual hazards associated with working on top of railcars, but because of the additional potential fall hazard associated with handling water under high pressure.

Last autumn, Fall Protection Systems installed a 120-foot-long overhead I-beam system, suspended from a 30-foot-tall support pole at either end, with the poles firmly mounted in concrete bases. The system is rated to handle two workers at once and stretches the length of two railcars.

In addition, this installation includes a metal staircase mounted on one of the two support poles, which allows workers to climb on top of the railcars safely in all weather.

"'We've had no problems with the system so far," Freberg reports. "It has enabled our employees to clean up railcars in a safe manner within OSHA guidelines."


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