• If applicable
Posted Monday, August 24th, 2020

Picture this, you have been sent to perform maintenance on a bulk fuel tank that your company own. You head over to the site with everything you need, a dipstick, tools what not. You get there and this greets you:

 

Unsafe Access Way on Fuel Tank

or even this:

Drawing of rectangular tank with access platform

Unfortunately, this can be the case for many maintenance teams across Australasia when faced with routine maintenance on an above ground fuel tank.

With tighter regulations being implemented yearly, bulk fuel storage tank access walkways (just as you see in the images above) are critical to get right also. These can often be an afterthought or brushed off as a ‘not so important’ aspect of a project, but in this article, we discuss how we approach walkways and what we recommend for clients.

Along with custom fuel tank solutions, we also design and manufacture a variety of standard and bespoke solutions to ensure that accessing your above ground fuel tank fittings is a safe and ergonomic process.

Drawing of rectangular tank with access platform

As a rule, our walkways for our project tanks are designed to AS1657 standards and are manufactured locally with industrial marine grade aluminium to ensure longevity and security in the field with no corrosion/rusting.

Access walkways can range in scale from a simple dip access platform for a rectangular above ground fuel tank (such as pictured below) to a complex full-length walkway and staircase (shown in the picture to the left).

Drawing of rectangular tank with access platform

Each access platform/walkway ensures safe passage way to the inner tank, with the complex solution allowing structural support for functions such as manual dip readings, tank man-way access and pump maintenance.

AS1657 (in the resources section at the end of this article) defines access methodology, configurations, spacings, materials, staircase angles, step spacing, edge protection (plus much more) and is based on research findings and historical data to ensure safe compliant solutions.

NOT ALL ACCESS / WALKWAYS ARE CREATED EQUAL

An important thing to remember is that all access is not created equal.

At Fuelchief, we use quality materials teamed with sophisticated workmanship to construction such walkways, we ensure these not only comply to regulations, but also give the customer an aesthetically pleasing, practical, safe and durable solution to tank access.

Some of the key standouts of our compliant walkways for our above ground fuel tanks are:

Marine Grade Aluminium: we use this to limit corrosion or rust. This aluminium is also safer as it does not need to be galvanised using toxic heavy metals or painted.
Welded Joints: joints on our walkways are welded for maximum rigidity, not riveted like less durable products in the market.
Stainless Steel Tank Mountings: we use stainless steel and aluminium for our tank mountings to ensure no rust.
Tread Grip: our steps use either a diamond pattern or laser cut pressed features to ensure an excellent, durable gripping surface for maintenance crew.

Example of a complaint walkway with the features mentioned above.

 

Diagram 1: Shows landings

 

CUSTOMER CONSIDERATIONS

When customers are planning sites and access, there needs to be consideration to what they need access to (whether it be maintenance of an above ground fuel tank, or access to a switchboard) and how they achieve that access with risk assessments, and health and safety being analysed too.

Some of the questions that should be asked are:

  • What is to be accessed? (electrical board, bulk fuel tank, drain, manhole)
  • How often does it need to be accessed? (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly)
  • What needs to be carried? (tools, dipsticks)
  • How much does it weigh for installation? (the access point, the maintenance items carried to the site)
  • Does the access need to be security protected?
  • How many operators are needed to safely complete the tasks?
  • Are harness or winching points required for maintenance?

Answering some of the above will help to define the correct balance of cost and safety vs risk and frequency when considering your access/walkway solution.

For example, a staircase with an angle of 20-45° degrees is extremely safe and stable so may be an ideal solution for frequent access where an operator potentially needs to have one hand free to carry a tool box. An example of this is shown in the image below.

Diagram 2: Shows acceptable and preferable angles

 

 

For very infrequent access, where basic maintenance is apparent, there can be a cost-effective solution that still fulfills safety obligations.

RESOURCES

AS1657 – Fixed platforms, walkways, stairways and ladders – Design construction and installation. This document is a good starting point to help understand the science care and attention that goes into high quality safe access solutions.