At utilities and industrial sites, Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) managers are responsible for preventing accidents and injuries related to dangers such as slip and fall incidents, ergonomic hazards, exposure to harmful chemicals, and risks associated with operating heavy machinery.
In the case of Consolidated Edison, Inc., one of the nation’s largest investor-owned energy-delivery companies, the company’s EH&S team proactively sought to reduce the risk of slip and fall incidents across multiple locations, as well as address an issue with shifting cargo loads while transporting equipment and supplies.
What turned out to be an award-winning EH&S Con Edison project began as a
safety concern related to fleet operations raised by the Astoria Ops Union Management Safety Team. The team consists of employees from Facilities Operations and Maintenance, Store Operations, Fleet Operations, and EH&S. The concern involved ten recently introduced aluminum trailers with decks that were not providing the non-slip surface required for safe, reliable load-securement of varying materials and equipment.
Discussions explored several possibilities to improve the traction of the trailer surface including conventional anti-slip coatings. The company had applied such coatings before, but found some were costly, difficult to install, required long curing times, or could only be applied to specific substrates, according to Richard Stewart, a Con Edison EH&S manager supporting Shared Services organizations.
“We have used anti-slip coatings in the past, but there were limitations,” says Stewart. “One was effective but could only be applied to steel surfaces. Another was a costly, two-part epoxy coating that was difficult to install. Traditional coatings can also take a week or more to cure, so we had to shut down certain areas for a long time,” says Stewart.
To avoid these issues, the EH&S team sought a more versatile non-slip coating that could be used more universally across a wide range of applications and materials.
According to Stewart, Con Edison selected an epoxy coating, called Form-A-Tread® SL (Self Leveling), that had been successfully used on various other projects. The patented coating provides a very durable, slip-resistant surface on walkways, ramps, floors, and other large areas with high pedestrian traffic.
The coating is a combination of a low-to-medium viscosity epoxy binder consisting of 100% solids and a specialized aggregate broadcast on top. The coating can be used on concrete, asphalt, metal diamond plate, wood, and other porous and non-porous substrates. The formulation is designed for indoor and outdoor use and can last for years even when exposed to chemicals, weather, and temperature extremes.
The coating is easy to mix and apply by hand. Installation is fast and the surface is typically ready for use within hours.
“The coating dries and cures faster than conventional [non-slip] coatings, which enables us to return to service faster,” says Stewart.
Stewart notes that Con Edison has used the coating on a wide variety of surfaces and applications. This has included many high traffic areas such as a receiving warehouse in Astoria; stairways in the Bronx; walkway ramps and dock loading ramps in Staten Island; and even plastic bumpers on utility vans that can become quite slick when wet.
An Award Winning EH&S Safety Program
According to Stewart, the safety concern was raised by a fleet driver shortly after the company purchased ten new aluminum bed trailers to expand its fleet. Unlike previous steel trailers that incorporated wood and a non-slip coating to increase traction, the aluminum trailers only had a narrow band of wood running down each side.
The concern was that large pad-mounted transformers, which could weigh many tons, might shift during transport in wet or windy conditions. As an interim solution, Stewart issued an EHS alert stating that, whenever possible, loads should be secured inside in a loading or receiving dock. However, a more permanent long-term solution was required.
Because Con Edison already had successfully utilized the coating for other applications, he contacted Form-A-Tread to inquire if it could be used on aluminum trailer beds. The answer was a qualified yes, because further testing was necessary to ensure the coating would withstand the flexing and bowing of the trailer while transporting heavy loads.
Stewart also wanted to ensure the coating could stand up to harsh weather conditions and the wear-and-tear the trailer would endure over many miles. Consequently, the team decided to perform a trial of three to six months on one trailer.
“When we got feedback from all the groups involved, they were impressed how the coating solved two issues at once,” says Stewart. “The drivers loved it because even on rainy, windy days the coating improved safety by providing sufficient traction and footing [on the aluminum trailer beds]. The improved traction also helped ensure large cargo would not shift on the trailer during transport.”
Based on the success of the trial, Con Edison decided to apply the coating on the remaining nine trailers. Before this occurred, Form-A-Tread revised the layout to increase surface area of the non-slip coating and speed installation. The approach allowed three trailers per day to be coated, until all were completed.
Expediting the application of the coating was important because Con Edison could not afford excess fleet downtime. “Our fleet [of tractor-trailers] is in high demand because we transport supplies to customers, including during emergencies or outages. So, we need the trailers back in service very quickly,” says Stewart.
The innovative use to secure tractor-trailer loads, it turns out, would win the team that worked on this initiative, a Con Edison 2021 Con Edison EH&S Team Award. This recognized the team’s extraordinary contribution to ensuring a safe workplace, achieving operational excellence, and improving how tractor-trailer loads are secured.
“The accomplishment was a great example of not settling for existing conditions but maintaining a high standard and going above and beyond,” says Stewart.
For his involvement with the project, Stewart was part of the team recognized in a Con Edison news article, and the project won Con Edison’s EH&S Sustainability Award.
He notes that as an EH&S Manager he often responds to issues with a solution or recommendation to help eliminate similar hazards across multiple locations.
“Working with a durable non-slip coating that can be applied to a variety of materials such as metal, concrete, asphalt, and wood, allows us to use the same solution to resolve many different issues,” concludes Stewart. “It is a very customizable product so wherever there is a need, we can use it. It gives us a lot of options.”
For more information: call 610-994-2138; email email@example.com; visit https://form-a-tread.com.
By Del Williams
Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, California.