Today we're updating a 2013 post with valuable info from Charles "CJ" Hineman, Fisher Tank Company's Safety Director, about safe tank entry.
CJ advises anyone working in or around tanks to always ask “What was in the tank?” According to CJ, this is just one of many questions that must be asked prior to performing repair work on above ground storage tanks. The safety and health of your employees depends on questions such as this being asked. Is our industry asking all the proper questions? Based on recent data, as an industry, we are not.
One major problem facing the world of tank repair is a lack of hazard recognition. You won’t have to go far to find a number of recent fatalities attributed to repair work on above ground storage tanks. The Chemical Safety Board (CSB) alone informs us that there have been over 60 fatalities since 1990 due to explosions and fires from hot work activities on tanks. NIOSH reports160 fatalities associated with confined space entry since 1982.
Ask the right questions!
We cannot rely solely on the OSHA standards to provide a failsafe and hazard free work environment. Education and comprehensive safety procedures, utilizing experience and industry best practices, are vital to ensuring the health and safety of our employees. Organizations such as the America Petroleum Institute (API), Chemical Safety Board (CSB), National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), and the Steel Tank Institute (STI) can offer educational seminars and guidelines to help develop effective safety programs for tank repair.
A simple but effective tool that can be added to your tank repair work safety program is a check list. This will ensure that all the proper questions are being asked and hazards are being identified prior to beginning work. Here are just a few elementary questions that should generate additional safety considerations when developing your own checklist: