Loading arm versus hose assembly: Which is best?

Louise Smyth

Across the transport industry including truck and rail terminals, refineries, and further afield in chemical and food & beverage processing plants, loading arms are becoming the standard choice.

There are many variables involved in the decision-making process to purchase a loading arm. They can be based on application, material, location, site limitations and so on. Safety should always be considered first when protecting your most important asset, your employees. Is a loading arm actually a safer option than a standard hose assembly? It is important to review key factors and examine the impact on safety when looking to choose between the two.

The benefits of a loading arm counterbalance

What is the media that is being transferred? Is the weight of the hose assembly an issue? A 4-inch hose assembly filled with liquid could potentially weigh 6kg per metre. In this situation, you could be asking your employees to drag a 100kg, 6m hose assembly. This could contribute to a high potential for back injuries and worker compensation injury claims. Even if the hose was shorter it would still add a significant amount of strain and stress on the worker.

Switching this application to a loading arm would reduce the chance of injury tremendously. The counterbalance mechanism of a loading arm is designed to balance the weight and do the heavy lifting for you and, combined with a handle, it becomes a very ergonomic solution.

For example, the design of the Dixon loading arm incorporates an additional safety factor by having a steel housing for the counterbalance torsion spring rather than the conventional plastic housing for better durability and long-life performance. The novel counterbalance adjustment mechanism allows the torsion spring to be safely adjusted easily and quickly without having to remove the housing.

Although not intended for adjustment under load, the design allows for this once the weight of the arm is supported by simply turning the adjustment bolt to increase or reduce the tension on the spring.

Loading arm versus hose assembly: Repetition

Are the tasks being performed repetitively? A loading arm will be mounted and have a distinct range of motion. A hose can be manoeuvred more flexibly, although this movement is typically done by having an employee drag the hose around manually.

If the location of the connection point remains consistent, such as at a fuel terminal, a loading arm application would be the best choice. This application will last longer than a standard hose assembly due to the loading arm being suspended where it can not drag on the ground as a hose can.

Many times a hose assembly that is used consistently can only last weeks or months, while a loading arm can last years or even decades with proper maintenance. Loading arms last so long because they can be rebuilt, adding replacement parts and removing the old parts while the entire hose assembly will be replaced when it can no longer function properly.

Loading arm versus hose assembly: Tripping hazard

Are your hoses causing a tripping hazard? Are employees constantly having to step over, or go around the hose assembly? A loading arm removes these hazards because they are mounted off the ground. They can be articulated into a folded position, out of the way to provide a cleaner, less-hazardous environment.

Are your hoses continuously being dragged? This can cause hoses to wear and burst, causing a spill. If the media is potentially hazardous this could be even more serious than a minor spill clean up.

Match result

When choosing between a hose assembly or a loading arm, always examine the three topics above before making your decision. There are many other factors involved, but these three topics can be a quick indicator when studying the safety aspect.

The best way to make an informed decision is to discuss your specific applications and needs with a market specialist.

Loading arms are offered in various custom configurations and can be supplied as complete turnkey assemblies or individual components.

Dixon’s latest development, incidentally, is a loading arm that can be configured and built to a customer’s specification, offering a more flexible solution where off-the-shelf options aren’t the perfect fit for the user’s fluid transfer needs.

Gill Platt is with Dixon Europe