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Overhead Fall Protection: Rail Yard and Rail Car Safety Solutions

Rail yards are bustling hubs of activity, where trains are loaded, unloaded, and maintained. Despite the efficiency and productivity associated with these operations, rail yard safety remains a paramount concern. Among the various safety measures implemented in rail yards, fall protection on rail car loading platforms stands out as a crucial aspect, ensuring the well-being of workers and minimizing the risk of accidents.

Why is rail yard safety a challenge?

Ensuring fall safety in rail yards can prove challenging due to the shape and mobile nature of rail cars. Despite only reaching a regulated height of 15 feet, work surfaces atop rail cars pose significant fall risks. Regulatory complexity adds to the challenge of rail car fall protection, as current standards lack specific provisions for fall hazards, necessitating innovative solutions beyond traditional personal protective equipment. Conventional fall protection measures like guardrails and nets are difficult to implement in the mobile environment of rail car loading platforms. 

The Solution: Overhead Fall Protection

In most spaces where fall protection is necessary, overhead fall protection comes to mind as a useful indoor fall protection solution. While it is true that many overhead fall protection systems require a ceiling or other existing structure for mounting, overhead fall protection can be implemented with freestanding systems as well, apart from any existing structures. When it comes to rail car fall protection, freestanding systems such as lifeline or rigid rail systems offer distinct advantages. Unlike ground-based solutions, which may obstruct the movement of equipment and personnel or require extensive installation, overhead systems provide comprehensive coverage without impeding operations.

In a dynamic setting like a rail yard, where the layout and configuration can vary, overhead fall protection offers versatility and adaptability. It can be customized to suit specific needs and integrated seamlessly into existing structures, such as rail car loading platforms or maintenance facilities.

Overhead fall protection minimizes the risk of potential hazards caused by ground-level barriers or obstructions. By keeping the work area clear and unobstructed, it enhances visibility and accessibility while maintaining a safe environment for workers.

So what are the best fall protection systems for rail cars?

The most commonly used fall protection method in rail yards is a rigid rail monorail system, which works with an enclosed track that facilitates safe movement for harnessed workers while acting as a reliable fall arrest system. The system is mounted in concrete near the rail car loading platforms with bases that extend well over the standard 15 feet of a railcar. The track then extends away from the base, parallel to the ground, over the top of the rail car being worked on. This provides the workers a track over their heads for their tethers to attach to. The system can be built in a number of versatile freestanding configurations depending on specific rail yard safety needs. These systems are perfect for rail car loading and unloading, as well as maintenance.

For example…

Edge Fall Protection recently worked with a customer in the business of rail car loading and unloading. They were in need of fall protection for their workers who frequently scale and work on top of railcars. The rail yard was entirely outdoors, lacking any existing structure where a fall protection system might be secured. With all of the trains running parallel to one another, we were able to install a freestanding rigid rail system in the shape of an inverted L. We mounted the base of the system in concrete next to the track. The short part of the L hung over the rail car itself, with a tether track running parallel to the trains. This way, multiple harnessed workers can now be secured from above, and no infrastructure blocks the flow of rail yard traffic.

Ensuring rail yard safety is essential to protect workers and minimize the risk of accidents in the mobile environment of rail car loading and unloading. Despite the challenges posed by the shape and mobility of rail cars, overhead fall protection systems provide comprehensive coverage without hindering operations, making them the preferred choice for rail car fall protection. By prioritizing safety and implementing effective solutions, rail yard operators can create a safer work environment for their employees while maintaining productivity and efficiency in their operations.

See some of the overhead fall protection solutions offered by Edge:  

We also offer consultation and engineering services so we can find the right rail car fall protection solution for your worksite and ensure it’s expertly installed. 

Have questions? You can reach us at info@edgefallprotection.com or call us at 844-314-1374.

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