Inverted-L Anchor Track Systems Protect Workers Atop Gondola Railcars

The transportation industry has received a lot of attention lately in regard to fall protection. More and more companies are reaching out to distributors to discuss options to keep their workers safer while climbing atop rail cars and other forms of transportation. There are dozens of fall protection options available for a variety of transportation applications, but in this specific case, we will be outlining a specific fall protection solution for a very unique application: An Inverted-L Dual Anchor Track Fall Protection System for gondola railcars.

Why Is This So Unique?

The United States government oversees contaminated worksites all over the U.S. to ensure they are treated and decontaminated properly. One such site exists in the northeastern United States, where radioactive thorium was processed during the early twentieth century. In 2011, the government contracted a large environmental services group to remediate part of the job site and return it to a usable state.

The remediation process involved digging up contaminated dirt and testing it for radioactivity. Once the dirt met acceptable radiation limits, it was removed in large piles with front-end loaders and transported to several gondola-style railcars lined with plastic. Once they were finished, workers used nine-foot ladders to climb atop the railcars and stitch the large plastic liners together, before taping them closed. The bagged dirt was then shipped by rail to a remote location and disposed of.

What's The Problem ?

For several months, workers were climbing the gondola ladders and stepping onto the railcars without fall protection. This was extremely dangerous, particularly due to slippery ladder rungs and dirty walking surfaces—making it easy for workers to slip or lose their balance. Unfortunately, workers at a sister site in the southeast discovered exactly how dangerous it was to climb railcars without fall protection, when one of their co-workers was killed after stepping off the side of a gondola car. This accident immediately prompted management at the northeastern remediation site to assess company fall hazards. Workers climbing railcars were tagged as working in a potential fall hazard, and site management began looking for a fall protection solution to their railcar application.

And, The Solution? 

Management reviewed several potential fall protection solutions to meet the needs of their application, but ended up deciding on Rigid Lifelines® Anchor Track™ systems, each spanning up to 46 feet in length—the exact length of each railcar. The system itself had to be custom engineered to support a maximum of four workers within that same span.

In the end, Rigid Lifelines® installed a 336-foot Inverted-L Dual Anchor Track™ system. The system covered seven full-length (46-foot) gondola railcars at one time, and each of the seven wide-flange beam footers was reinforced in nine feet of concrete to support the weight of the Anchor Track™ and cantilevered beams. The total system was designed to support six workers simultaneously, allowing four to use any single 46-foot span at one time.

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Kristina Harman

Senior Technical Writer |
Kristina Harman was formerly a senior technical writer and content manager for Rigid Lifelines, a division of Spanco, Inc. Kristina has twelve years of experience in content development, technical communications, and copyediting. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in English from Towson University and a Master of Education Certification in English from Johns Hopkins University. She is a member of the Society for Technical Communication and the American Medical Writers Association.