Hollywood movies and television shows have thrilled viewers for decades with scenes of heroes and villains chasing each other from atop car-to-car, maintaining perfect balance as the locomotive steams down the tracks. In the real word, the Long Island Rail Road harbors no such Hollywood illusions. From stringent passenger safety precautions to an OSHA-compliant fall protection system on the roof of its new locomotive maintenance facility, the public transportation company treats safety as a marquee priority.

New Facility Needs

Established in 1834, the Long Island Rail Road carries approximately 282,000 passengers on a typical weekday and last year served 85.4 million riders. Its service area ranges from midtown Manhattan to the eastern end of Long Island, roughly 120 miles away. With a new fleet of 23 diesel electric locomotives plus 23 dual-mode locomotives coming on line, a new facility was needed to perform running repair and maintenance. Planning and design began in 1996 for a facility to be located at the railroad's Richmond Hill Yard in Richmond Hill, Queens, New York City.

Construction was scheduled for 31 months and performed in two phases, according to Douglas Stamm, project manager for the Long Island Rail Road. The first phase consisted of nine months of preparation work at the Richmond Hill Yard, followed by the building of the 20,000-square-foot locomotive shop in 22 months. The new facility has three tracks, each capable of servicing two locomotives. It includes two overhead cranes and a drop table used for the removal and replacement of locomotive trucks and wheelsets, according to Stamm.

The single-story building is approximately 265 feet long by 75 feet wide with a height of 50 feet in the main section. The locomotive shop was designed with a sloped roof that has parapet walls on the east, west and south sides. The parapet walls start at roof level on the east and west sides, rising to 16 inches where they meet at the 16-inch parapet wall running along the south edge. The north side is adjacent to an existing Long Island Rail Road Building. The only access to the rooftop is via a caged ladder.

Because workers would be required to access the roof for routine maintenance, Stamm reported that the railroad wanted a fall protection system that would not require structural modifications to the roof or penetrations of the roof membrane.

“We did not want to raise the possibility of water leaks with the installation of additional pitch pockets and associated drainage lines,” he said.

Based on research conducted by STV Inc., the railroad's consultant firm that designed the locomotive shop, Long Island Rail Road selected KeeGuard, a freestanding, counterweight railing system, to serve as a fall protection barrier around the perimeter of the flat roof.

The railroad contacted Kee Industrial Products, Inc., of Buffalo, New York, manufacturer of KeeGuard, for technical literature and a 20-foot sample of the product. The System Safety Department at the Long Island Rail Road inspected KeeGuard before making the purchasing decision.

How It Works

KeeGuard is a tubular railing system comprised of five prefabricated modular assemblies that can be designed to match virtually any flat roof configuration on new and existing buildings. Because it employs a proven, counterweight principle, there is no need for drilling or penetration of

the roof membrane for installation. The system uses Kee Klamp structural slip-on pipe fittings with 1-1/2-inch schedule pipe plus upright and counterbalance assemblies. Also manufactured by Kee Industrial Products, Kee Klamp fittings are galvanized for corrosion resistance and provide a strong, rigid, maintenance-free connection, the company said.

A hex wrench used to tighten the case-hardened, steel set screws of the fittings is the only tool required for installation. There is no special anchoring or welding required, and virtually no on-site cutting or bending of pipe is necessary. KeeGuard adapts to most roof edge profiles and changes in levels. Sections of the guardrail system can be disassembled and reassembled.

Frank Chiulli of Petracca & Sons, the general contractor that installed KeeGuard, said it was “very simple to install and did exactly what the railroad wanted it to do.”

Chiulli's firm installed the safety railing system on the main roof area covering 221 feet by 75 feet, and 41 feet by 38 feet on a secondary lower roof area. The nominal dimension from the interior of the parapet wall at the roof edge to the guardrail is 6 inches. The waterproof Manville roof, with an insulation layer and gravel, is covered by warranty, so it was critical to select a railing system that would not penetrate the roof membrane.

“We were very impressed with the ease of assembly and minimal time required to place KeeGuard on the roof,” Stamm said.

Another important selection factor was that KeeGuard is reported to meet and exceed safety requirements of roof edge protection. It is independently tested to OSHA regulation CFR 1910.23, which states that if workers are coming within 6 feet of a roof edge, there must be a specified means of fall protection. The system also complies with OSHA guardrail standards for structural loading requirements.

Maintenance personnel at the Richmond Hill facility access the roof no less than quarterly to perform routine inspections for damage and to replace belts and filters as needed in the 19 roof-mounted heating and ventilating units for the locomotive shop. The KeeGuard safety railing system has met all of the Long Island Rail Road's expectations by providing a fall protection barrier for the workers, according to Stamm.

For those who have expectations of action and adventure, there are the movies and television. For the reassurance of protecting its workers against falling from its new rooftop, the Long Island Rail Road is content with KeeGuard.

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Published in Occupational Hazards, December 2001