Crude Oil Facilities: An Introduction to Safety

What does your workday look like? If you’re like most people with a nine-to-five job, you spend your days working in an office, most likely at a desk, on a computer or laptop. Perhaps you also get together with coworkers for meetings or conference calls throughout your day.

What are the ways your company ensures you stay safe, comfortable and working productively all day long? For those in an office environment, this likely means you have a comfortable chair and desk that support your posture while you work at the computer. You might even have a lounge area or break room designed to give you a change of scenery or fresh air.

In creative fields, open office spaces, bright colors and natural light are all mechanisms used to help employees maintain their momentum. For those jobs that require concentration, you might have a private office with a door so you can shut out any noise.

Another Side of the Workforce

No matter your field, most companies will create a workspace that enables you to get your job done to the best of your ability. Hopefully you feel secure and comfortable in your space without thinking too much about the supplies and furniture that make up your sense of comfort and safety.

But what about those who don’t work in an office environment? There are hundreds of thousands of employees who perform dangerous job tasks on a daily basis. For them, there’s no cushy office. Workers transporting crude oil and gas, for example, have to perform job duties under pretty harsh conditions. Often, these jobs are performed during the very early, or late hours of the morning.

When working with hazardous materials and heavy machinery — especially outdoors in the elements of nature — there needs to be much more provided than a break room or change of scenery in order for that worker to accomplish his or her job.

In order to accomplish their jobs productively and securely, employees in the oil industry need adequate training, an understanding of how to properly position their body and use their tools, and highly functioning safety equipment.

Safety in a Crude Oil Loading Facility

As of June 2016, about 172,000 employees make up the workforce in the oil and gas industry. With so many workers performing high-stakes jobs, safety becomes critical. When workers can do all of their tasks safely, company productivity and overall employee morale will increase.

While companies have many different procedures and systems in place to cover all aspects of employee safety, in this post we focus on the safety equipment available to the oil and gas industry — specifically for crude oil loading facilities.

But first, let’s detail just how a crude oil facility operates and what their employees are responsible for on a daily basis.

How Do Crude Oil Loading Facilities Operate?

In the oil and natural gas industry, many different liquids and materials are transported all over the country. However, when it comes to energy pipelines, there are two main types: liquid petroleum pipelines and natural gas pipelines.

To break it down more specifically, crude oil lines, refined product lines, highly violate liquids (HVL) and carbon dioxide lines (CO2) all fall under the liquid petroleum category. Crude oil lines are then divided even further into gathering lines and transmission lines. The pipelines that transport these liquids vary widely in size and location, but since we’re talking about the crude oil industry here, we’ll focus on the liquid petroleum pipelines specifically. 

Gathering lines are those that collect the crude oil from oil-producing locations — usually from locations like Texas, North Dakota, California, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Wyoming and Louisiana. The pipelines then deliver the oil to refineries or fuel terminals.

A crude oil loading facility is where the petroleum product is loaded either into railcars or trucks to meet its end market. Though the inbound oil is sometimes transferred to the facility via direct pipeline, many times the oil will make a stop at a storage terminal before reaching the facility. Then, it’s the workers’ job to transport the large amounts of the oil into the railcars or trucks. That’s where SafeRack products can come in — as transferring the oil to the truck or railcar can be a tedious process.

Workers must be knowledgeable about all associated risks, carry out each task correctly, and, of course, use the right equipment. Our products are designed to bring crude oil facility workers the safety they need while enabling them to complete their job tasks efficiently.

Safety Threats to the Oil Worker

Those employees who work in the oil and gas industries face a variety of safety threats each day. What’s important to remember — and why it’s worth noting the risk — is that when you identify the dangers and take proper precautions, these threats are minimized. Both employers and employees alike are responsible for working to address threats such as these:

  • Hearing loss — both long term or short term — from loud noises on the work site
  • Exposure to hydrogen sulfate or H2S found in oil, gas and some mineral deposits. H2S is a toxic gas with no color, an odor that smells like rotten eggs, and a tendency to irritate the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. Workers are generally exposed to H2S in refineries and pipelines, and large amounts can even prove to be fatal.

Worker Safety

  • Confined spaces such as tunnels, pits, pipelines and storage tanks — these tend to pose a risk if the worker is not properly trained or doesn’t have the right equipment for the job at hand (typically smaller tasks such as inspection, cleaning and repair).
  • Extreme weather conditions, such as ice, flooding, erosion and storms
  • Falls from a height
  • Exposure to drilling fluids, which circulate through the well and systems when temperatures are high.
  • These can pose health risks and slow productivity and can occur regardless of if the system is open, closed or partially enclosed. Contact with drilling fluids can cause dizziness, headache, drowsiness and nausea.
  • Oil spills from vessel leakage or transportation accidents, which, in extreme cases, can result in human loss, as well as environmental issues.
  • Diesel exhaust from various machines and vehicles, which can cause both long- and short-term health effects

SafeRack’s Products Are Made for Your Facility

The daily processes in a crude oil loading facility can be complicated and dangerous. But regardless of the safety threats, the job is an important one.

The energy market is dependent on crude oil and other petroleum liquids and natural gases. So, it’s key that all workers understand the correct and incorrect way to complete tasks and use only the best equipment and safety products. SafeRack’s platforms and gangways are essential to creating a safe and effective loading facility.

With years of experience under our belt, we understand just how important the safe handling of crude oil and natural gas is. After constructing miles worth of platforms and thousands of gangways, all while keeping durability and safety in mind, we’ve risen to the top of our industry.

Our products lead the industry and will enable you to become leaders in your own. Below, you’ll find some key types of safety equipment and what they can do for your loading facility.

  • Gangways and Safety Cages:
    We go above and beyond to bring you gangways and cages that are more than OSHA compliant — we’ve built the safest versions out there. We take the OSHA guidelines extremely seriously, but we also design with productivity and efficiency in mind. All our models of gangways are engineered to stand the test of time. The oversized parts are durable, and the material we use will withstand any work environment. Our products are built to last and easy to use, decreasing downtime caused by unsafe conditions or faulty material. We work hard to bring you the best of both worlds — safety and productivity during unloading and loading. Check out our loading ramps and gangways to find the right G4 series solution to complete your project.
  • Platforms:
    In a loading facility, platforms are essential to loading the oil or material into the truck or train. Whether you need a small platform for one truckload or one that runs the length of the entire train, SafeRack will design, produce, deliver and install the correct platform for your needs. Because your top priority is safety and functionality, we work tirelessly to bring the right platforms and mounts for your specific railcar or truck loading system.
  • Pipe Racks:
    A crude oil facility needs a manageable way to transfer the liquid to the appropriate terminal. This is where heavy-duty pipes come in. However, your worksite can quickly become hazardous, as well as confusing, if you don’t have the proper organization of your pipes. Not to mention, waiting around for a pipe rack system can take weeks. SafeRack’s pipe racks are designed in a wide variety of styles and frames, ensuring that you will find the right pipe rack for your specific needs. Plus, our ErectaRack system allows for the efficient and fast construction of pipe systems for your site. Without the long wait, you’ll experience less downtime and more productivity.
  • Loading Arms:
    Loading arms are another essential part of the crude oil loading process. In order to load and unload the bulk chemicals or liquids at the right speed and temperature, you have to have the right type of loading arm. From insulated varieties to those that are designed to work with specific gangways and safety cages, SafeRack has the right loading arm you need to fulfill your job duty safely and effectively. At SafeRack, we are happy to collaborate with you during every step of the design process. We want to create the loading arm that is right for your specific job needs. Whether you’re looking for a swing arm style or need a bottom-loading arm for trucks, ours are designed with your needs in mind.
  • Stairs and Work Platforms:
    We know that you want to save time and money for your business, as well as provide a productive work environment for your employees. Many times in oil loading facilities, workers will need to make use of stairs in order to get around or over pipes, dike walls or other obstructions as quickly and safely as possible. SafeRack’s metal stairs and work platforms are sturdy, ergonomic and built to withstand the test of time, even in a tough work environment. They’re also efficient, as they allow up to five different configurations to meet any of your needs. Our aluminum stairs and platforms can be reconstructed and relocated, so you can move them around your site and use them as needed for various functions.
  • Overfill Protection:
    Overfill is a serious safety risk. It can also cause harm to the surrounding environment and lead to a large amount of product waste. A product spill is something no business wants to experience, but it’s still necessary to take the proper precautions to protect against them. You must keep your crew and the environment safe, while still filling your railcars or trucks to capacity. Along with overfill protection, we also offer grounding protection. Grounding protection is essential when loading and unloading flammable materials. Static shock has the power to ignite an explosion, which is obviously disastrous for your business and crew. The right protection ensures that the railcar is securely grounded before you begin the loading/unloading process.

At SafeRack, we have designed an easy way to integrate these protection tools and products into your current system. We know that the last thing you want is to experience a spill, static shock or injury to an employee. Browse our wide range of products or contact us for the right protection tool that will ensure that your crew works effectively and safely.

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