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US oil refiner sets the standard for working at height access solutions

Badly specified, poorly sited or unmaintained access solutions can lead to accidents and, in turn, lawsuits. Many companies are still in the mindset that it won’t happen to them or they don’t have time to focus on their access solutions, but those stung have seen six figure fines, minimum.

The use of self-closing gates, commonly for gaps in guardrail systems to allow roof access from a fixed ladder, has seen a marked increase in recent years, with the advent of the Working at Height Regulations 2005 where any work at height is required to be planned as a result of a risk assessment.

It is still not uncommon to see chains or draw bars used to allow access to working at height areas. The big downside to these being used is that if the chain or drawbar is not replaced (and often it isn’t), an open void is created in the fall protection system and so a significant fall hazard is created.

Spring loaded self-closing safety gates are considered the preferred solution to chains, bars or sliding tubes when protecting these areas, as once the user has passed through, the gate closes the gap filling the open void, furthermore reducing the risk of human error.

Flotech’s client and major American oil refiner is paving the way for a changed mentality. The oil refiner has recently audited its company standards and defined that all working at height areas covering ladders, stairs and openings originally covered by either a single bar or chain should now be protected by a dual bar self-closing gate.

The YellowGate and a number of other designs, solutions and materials were reviewed in detail by Pembroke Refinery, at which point the options were narrowed down, inclusive of the YellowGate. Flotech Performance Systems attended a site visit in early October 2017. During this visit, Flotech presented the YellowGate product and demonstrated the installation process firstly in the offices and then on site fitting the gate to a live application.

During the discussions, a couple of application issues were pointed out, which required special adaptation:

  • Most of the refinery’s handrails are 3-inches in width, while the standard gate is typically designed for 2-inch applications

  • Most of the handrails are also flat bar rather than square post, round tube or angle profiles

While these issues can be overcome with the standard YellowGate, this would require on-site drilling to install. This was an area the client was keen to avoid due to the additional time taken for installation, the requirement for special ‘hot works permits’, as well as the risk involved. This resulted in Flotech working closely with SafeRack to create a suitable modified bracket assembly to allow the gate to simply be bolted into position, requiring no special permits.

Based on the design, lightweight nature and ease of installation, Flotech was awarded the project to supply all 1,000 gates as the first phase of supply. Flotech received the purchase order under the proviso that all 1,000 units would be manufactured and ready for despatch before the end of the year.