The national OSHA Practice Group at Epstein Becker Green co-authored an article in BioFuels Journal entitled “Railcar Fall Protection: What OSHA Requires from Ethanol Plant Operators.” Although the article principally addresses OSHA's enforcement landscape related to work on top of railcars at ethanol plants, the analysis carries over to work on top of any rolling stock (e.g., tanker trucks, railcars, rigs, etc.) in any industry.
Here is an excerpt from the article:
Addressing fall hazards is always among the OSHA's top enforcement priorities. Indeed, OSHA’s fall protection standards continue to rank among the most frequently cited year after year. The use of fall protection equipment for work on top of rolling stock, however, is one of the most confusing and inconsistently enforced OSHA requirements, particularly for work on top of railcars at grain elevators facilities and ethanol plants.
There are numerous work activities that require employees to stand on and walk between the tops of railcars . . .from stowage inspections and prepping cars, to helping guide a loadout spout into a railcar, or allowing state or federal grain inspectors to access railcars for sampling and grading. With potentially miles of track where these work activities may need to be performed on top of railcars, there often is no feasible method for employees to tie off a harness and lanyard over the tracks.
The article goes on to explain the current state of the law in this area, including a detailed analysis of OSHA's 1996 Miles Memo (a formal interpretation about rolling stock fall protection requirements), a recent OSH Review Commission decision interpreting the Miles Memo, and a series of recommended practices for employers.
Here is a link to the article.