Oklahoma City

Deaths lead to more scrutiny of tank cleaning – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 2021-11-24 13:46:42 –

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the US Department of Labor has launched a program that puts more emphasis on the safety of cleaning transport tanks after recent injuries and deaths. Focus areas include Oklahoma. (Photo by Erik McLean via Unsplash)

In August 2020, two workers boarded a natural gas tanker in a Hugo railroad car and were killed by steam.

Of the 36 workers in the transport and tank cleaning industry reported throughout the extended region since 2016, their deaths have been investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the US Department of Labor.

To mitigate the risks faced by tank cleaners, OSHA is a local enforcement to raise awareness of employers in Region 6 (Texas, Arkansaw, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma) and Chicago-based Region 5. Established Program (LEP).

Truck, trailer, or rail vehicle transport tanks require cleaning and inspection before being refilled for transport. Workers who clean tanks between uses are at risk of exposure to toxic vapors from chemicals, rotten crops, waste and other substances, as well as choking, fire and explosion.

Eric Harbin, Dallas OSHA Regional Administrator, said: “Companies with active health and safety programs that identify dangerous situations and train workers to use the necessary safeguards can prevent serious and fatal injuries.”

Brian Bolinger, Vice President of Environmental Health and Safety at Quala, said he has long recognized the importance of safety when it comes to access to confined spaces.

“We are not overly stressed by this (LEP). We have procedures, programs and culture in place,” Bollinger said. “We are industry leaders. We have the most experience and resources.”

Quala operates tank cleaning services in more than 80 locations across North America, including a business in northeastern Oklahoma City, which was acquired from Kraft Tank Corp in May.

According to Bollinger, LEP covers most of the company’s footprint, as 40% of the locations are in Texas and Louisiana.

“We can’t always clean the tank without entering. It’s better not to enter, but sometimes it’s necessary,” he said.

For example, a hardened product may be on the bottom of the tank and cannot be removed without rubbing or shoveling.

The tank carries everything from milk to crude oil.

Quala staff chemists will determine what is needed to properly clean each tank. Hot water and a powerful spinner mechanism may work. In some cases, chemicals may be needed, Bollinger said.

Most of Quala’s facilities carry out average risk level cleaning, he said. In high-risk situations that require higher levels of personal protective equipment, customers need to ship their tanks to one of the higher-risk cleaning locations.

Michael Bowling, a labor lawyer at Crowe & Dunlevy, says LEP operates with a carrot and stick approach.

“Carrots” are provided by OSHA through local and regional offices to provide special support and educational opportunities. A “stick” is a programmed round of inspections where agents randomly select employers within the target industry to perform a surprise inspection.

According to Bowling, when inspectors are on the scene, they also look for other issues.

The special emphasis program will run until the summer of 2024, but may be extended depending on what the inspector finds.

“The focus is on worker safety, cleaning equipment, and the processes used,” Bowling said.

Companies found to violate safety standards could receive anything from warnings of minor problems to criminal accusations of repeated or reckless failures, he said.



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