Case Study: Custom Industrial Access Fabrication for Global Oil General Contractor

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The Access Challenge

A Texas-based general contractor who works with global oil companies sought a spiral staircase for roof access for two oil tanks, along with multiple entry points. They challenged Southern Metal Fabricators to build a staircase that would connect the two tanks, even though one tank was significantly taller than the other. Adding to the challenge was the fact that the two tanks were already in the process of being fabricated.

Unfortunately, there is zero margin for error when installing wrap-around staircases, which is why they are normally built as part of the tank fabrication. This was not an option for the contractor, as the tank constructions were already under way.

The Fabrication Solution

The contractor needed a custom industrial access solution that wouldn’t bottleneck the fabrication and installation of the two new tanks. After combing through the specifications, fabrication drawings, and field measurements, Southern Metal Fabricators developed a plan for a free-standing spiral staircase with a minimal footprint that would connect both tanks.

This custom industrial access solution included:

  • One spiral staircase with an eight by 65-inch diameter and a double “X” design
  • Multiple entry points for each of the two tanks
  • Different extensions of cross-over platforms for access from the taller to the smaller tank
  • Designs for the tank fabricators to create “repads” to attach the staircase to each tank
  • Photos to aid the installation team and demonstrate how the new staircase would work in the field

Southern Metal Fabricators’ certified professional engineers (PEs) worked closely with the tank fabricators to determine the correct placement for each repad. The PEs provided the necessary design that would be required to brace the stairs to each oil tank.

The PEs also worked with the galvanizers, who needed to “hot-dip” the lower and upper exit components to withstand the outdoor elements. To ensure the components would all fit into the hot-dip pot, the PEs provided the design information to SMF for the exit pieces in two half-completed installments designed to be conveniently field-installed.

Once all these fabrication pieces were in place, Southern Metal Fabricators did a final walkthrough with the general contractor to ensure the spiral staircase cost-effectively met all design specifications, so the entire tank project could move forward on schedule.

The ROI Results

Traditional wrap-around staircases can add significantly more circumference to tanks and require more time to install. Thanks to the custom solution from Southern Metal Fabricators, the new tanks were installed on time, with no costly delays. Instead of paying for two wrap-around staircases, the general contractor only had to invest in a single, industrial access fabrication.

Today, the new spiral staircase provides access to four oil tanks. Workers can now exit the shorter first tank and access the roof of the second taller tank. The roof access of the second tank is the same height as the other two, for complete roof access to all four.

The spiral staircase also delivered ROI benefits such as:

  • Safe industrial access that complies with OSHA’s rules for spiral staircase constructions
  • Reduced fabrication and installation costs via a single solution versus two staircases
  • Smaller overall footprint for tank designs, for escalated installation and implementation time

Multifaceted Fabrication Capabilities for One Industrial Access Solution

Creating a safe, OSHA-compliant industrial staircase or platform that delivers ROI begins with collaboration. For Southern Metal Fabricators, communication is key to a successful outcome. For nearly three decades, they’ve fabricated hundreds of stairs, platforms, and ladders by collaborating closely with their customers to eliminate safety hazards and provide overall cost savings.

This collaborative process includes:

  • Consulting with the customer and all contractors to make sure everyone is on the same page regarding how the fabrication will work in the field
  • Assigning appropriate PEs who are state-certified as required by the customer’s state and local regulations
  • Using drawings and photos to ensure all fabrication pieces (including those produced by subcontractors) will work as intended in the field

Creating a single staircase goes beyond welding together a few pieces of metal. Safe, cost-effective industrial access requires a full-service solution backed by years of engineering, design, and industry expertise. To learn how Southern Metal Fabricators can solve your industrial access equipment challenges, give us a chance to say, “Yes, we can do that!” by contacting us today.