From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Access Platforms

Dan MacLeod, CPE, MA, MPH

Refinery PlatformBasic
Refinery platforms (arrows) Standard platform in power plant

Principles affected

Related pages




Process industries like refineries, chemical plants, and power plants have locations that need to be accessed with varying degrees of frequency. Well-designed facilities are constructed with permanent work platforms in these locations.

Temporary platforms are also often used in these operations, such as scaffolding and roll-in stands. These are used to access locations on a less frequent basis.

Other types of operations may also have such locations. The best practices on this page can provide guidance in such cases, both for permanent and temporary work platforms

Ideas and Options



Platform3b Decking2

Decking and catwalks are indispensable for maintenance (and operation) of large machinery and process plants. Good design identifies these locations during planning stages and includes them during initial construction and installation.

Permanent step platforms

PlatformSteps PlatformBolted
Passage over  obstructions Bolted to equipment to enable access

Permanent step platforms are often used to facilitate access. Examples include locations where the platform provides a good walking/working surface above obstructions, or simply to reach the height necessary to perform the task.

Obstruction1 Obstruction2
Before After

Obviously, care should be taken to insure that platforms do not become obstructed with other equipment.



Scaffolding1b Scaffolding elaborate

Scaffolding is frequently used in power plants for repairs. Some systems can be fairly elaborate, as shown in the photo above right.

Scaffold stacks Scaffolding materials
Stacks of dismantled scaffolding

A disadvantage of scaffolding is that it must be assembled and disassembled with each use, often with considerable effort. A difficult question is determining when it is more cost effective to build permanent platforms rather than erect scaffolding every time. However, from a human perspective, permanent platforms are generally preferred, since they eliminate the need to assemble every time.

Movable platforms

On wheels

Work platforms can be designed to be moved in and out as needed. This platform is configured to fit a particular piece of equipment and is used frequently enough to warrant wheels for easy movement.

Slide1 Slide2
Out of way In position

These photos show sliding platforms on a catwalk outside a high tower.

Hook platform 1a
Hook step platform

This homemade step platform takes advantage of a guard rail. The hooks over the rail provide stability and reduces the weight, since a set legs is eliminated. Thus the step platform can easily be relocated to any position on the deck.

Platform portablec
Stored adjacent point of use

This platform must be assembled for each use, but is designed for a particular use and requires less effort to handle than generic scaffolding. Furthermore, it is stored on a wall conveniently adjacent to where it is needed.