Key Takeaways

  • Tank truck inspectors, technicians, welders and cleanout specialists frequently enter confined spaces to perform work.

  • Confined space hazards in tank trucks are an often-unrecognized threat to workers; employers must take precautions to prevent serious incidents.

  • This article reviews the distinct hazards for cargo tanks and proactive measures that can reduce these hazards.

Trucks with cargo tanks used in the service industry need routine maintenance to ensure their safety and keep product flowing. But such turnarounds are a source of concern for the industry. As production mounts and traffic increases, truck congestion at service facilities causes delays, impacting worker safety (Chakraborty, Kumar & Malguri, 2016). Several potentially deadly hazards such as falls exist in such operations. But a largely unrecognized and often fatal hazard is confined spaces in truck tanks.

In the allied service trade where tank truck maintenance is outsourced to specialized vendors, work has many potential hazards. Specialty trades conduct inspection, sanitation, maintenance and repair. To get the job done, employees frequently enter confined spaces and work at height. Productivity often means balancing personal safety, health and performance.

Truck drivers and service technicians frequently climb onto tank vehicles using side ladders, stairs, walkways, catwalks and caged work platforms. Additionally, service workers frequently use compressed air, steam and high-pressure water to conduct tank clean-out operations. Employees commonly access tank cargo holds by entering man ways, hatches and portals at the dome or top of a tank container. In these activities, employees may be exposed to toxic, flammable, oxygen-deficient and chemically asphyxiating atmospheres (Harle, 2017). These hazards call for a new paradigm in OSH regarding truck tanks.

Improving Production & Morale

Addressing these issues can produce quantifiable benefits, including improved production and enhanced employee morale. Establishing an effective safety and health program at a job site is one of the best ways of protecting the company's most valuable asset, its workers. Losing workers to injury or illness, even for a short time, can cause significant disruption and cost. It can also damage workforce stability and a company's reputation (OSHA, 2016).

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