An Update on OSHA Fall Protection Requirements for Fuel Loading Platforms
Updated: Mar 12, 2020
By: Albert Weaver III and Cynthia Sink
Loading platforms from which fuel trucks are loaded are usually not required by either U.S. OSHA or the North Carolina OSHA administrations to have a guard rail for the side adjacent to the tank truck. North Carolina OSHA issued a Standards Notice dated 7.15.1976 which was re-issued on 8.12.2005 entitled “Guardrails at Petroleum Loading Racks--29 CFR 1910.23(c)(1)” addressing why guardrails are impractical at petroleum loading racks and why safety belts and lanyards should not be used in lieu of guardrails. U.S. OSHA issued an identical notice as STD 01-01-005 dated 10.30.1978. Both the North Carolina and U.S. notices offer an explanation regarding why guardrails are impractical stating “The principal reason why guardrails are impractical is that truck tanks are of different configurations and the several loading platforms make it necessary for employees to be able to step from the platform (or use a runway from the platform onto the tank) at any place in order to go onto the tank. It is necessary to go onto the tank to open and close hatches and to place and remove filler spouts. Safety belts and lanyards should not be used when loading flammable liquids because the employees should be able to move freely in case of a fire.” North Carolina OSHA continues and states that “Citations should not be issued for loading rack platforms which do not have guardrails on platform sides adjacent to the top of tank trucks.” It does note that “Citations will be issued for such platforms occupied when there is not a truck adjacent to the platform (emphasis supplied) unless effective protective measures are taken, (such as using safety belts and lifelines).” U.S. OSHA states that “If it is necessary to cite an employer…the violation is to be considered to be de minimis” (a violation but one which has no bearing on the safety or health of the employees. (NC OSHA Standards Notice 33, 7.15.1976 and 8.12.2005 and U.S. OSHA STD 01-01-005, 10.30.1978).
Similar guidance to the standards notices issued by North Carolina and U.S. OSHA is provided by the Cargo Tank Risk Management Committee. This committee specifies that if the work cannot be performed at ground level without accessing the tank top, but the work can be performed from platforms with fixed stairs and railings with protection at openings, then this is an acceptable fall protection strategy (Cargo Tank Risk Management Committee, revision 2, April 2014).
In addition to the exemptions specified beginning in 1976 by North Carolina and U.S. OSHA, the ANSI standard applicable to safety requirements for workplace walking and working surfaces including guardrail systems specifically excludes in paragraph 1.1.1 of the standard the loading and unloading areas of truck, railroad, and marine docks as well as platforms. A telephone consultation with Tim Fisher (3.6.2015), who is the secretary for the listed standard (A1264.1, 2007, Safety Requirements for Workplace Walking/Working Surfaces and Their Access Workplace, Floor, Wall and Roof Openings, Stairs and Guardrail Systems) and an employee of the American Society of Safety Engineers, noted that the exemption as specified in paragraph 1.1.1 excludes platforms and the loading and unloading areas of truck, railroad, and marine docks. The standard at issue states:
“Excluded from this standard are: …the loading and unloading areas of truck, railroad, and marine docks; … platforms…”
Many fuel trucks have a threaded rod with multiple brass washers spaced about 4 inches apart in each of the separate tanks as shown in Photograph 1 below as a means of determining the fill level without overfilling the truck. Persons filling the truck should not stand on top of the truck to see the fill level but instead view it from the loading platform or stand on the truck side rail as shown in Photograph 2. It is critical for all workers involved with fuel loading platforms to be trained in the OSHA requirements for fall protection. In part, their training should include that the truck itself provides fall protection on the side not required to be guarded but that the opening between the truck side and the platform must be less than 1 inch to meet OSHA’s definition of a hole not requiring additional guarding; also that standing on top of the truck would require fall protection. Employers should ensure that if a fall hazard exists that all other requirements of the OSHA standard for fall protection in 29CFR1910 are met.
N.C. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Division, Standards Notice 33, Guardrails at Petroleum Racks 29 CFR 1910.23(c)(1), 7.15.1976 and 8.12.2005.
U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, STD 01-01-005, Protection of Open-Sided Floors, Platforms and Runways; Guardrails—Loading Rack Platforms, 10.30.1978 as retrieved from www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=Directive&p_id=1759
ANSI/ASSE A1264.1—2007 Safety Requirements for Workplace Walking/Working Surfaces and Their Access; Workplace Floor, Wall and Roof Openings; Stairs and Guardrails Systems
Telephone consultation with Tim Fisher, ASSE and Secretary for ANSI standard A1264.1, 3.6.2015
North American Hierarchy Protocol for Protection of Workers on the Top of Tanks. Cargo Tank Risk Management Committee, revision 2, April 2014 as retrieved from www.cargotanksafety.org
Albert Weaver III, CSP is president of L.A. Weaver Co., Inc., an occupational and environmental consultancy based in Raleigh, NC. He is a former NC OSHA state director (1977—1979) and has practiced in the field of safety and health since 1970.
Cynthia H. Sink is an engineering intern at L.A. Weaver Co., Inc. and will receive a B.S. ISE degree from NCSU in 2016.