When it comes to working with cargo tankers, it would actually be a good thing if a supervisor said, “You’re grounded.”
Those could be the safest words you could ever hear.
Cargo tankers are often some of the more dangerous vehicles on the road, not just for other drivers and vehicles but even for the driver of the tanker himself or herself. Oftentimes, cargo-tanker drivers do not spend all their time on the ground, and when they are above the ground, there is a greater safety risk with slips and falls that could potentially lead to a major time-loss event. And why should we care? Because among the top five causes of on-the-job injuries and fatalities virtually every year, two of those causea are falls- falls on the same level and falls from a higher level to a lower.
Usually thoe who work around cargo tankers are finding themselves climbing along the side of it or on top, especially at times when the tankers are being filled or emptied. Falls have been quite common, and when the tankers are filled with hazardous chemicals or those liquids which can spill or splash out and make the standing surface slick, conditions can be extra difficult.
Albert Weaver III and Cynthia Sink teamed up to author an article in Professional Safety magazine that addresses cargo tankers and the safety of these vehicles, stressing the importance of finding alternate ways to work around the vehicles so drivers and other workers are remaining on the ground as much as possible.
Let’s take a look at the damage from a broader perspective. Falling to a lower level accounted for more than $5.1 billion in time-loss for workers in 2012 alone. And between 2011 and 2013, there were more than 7,400 non-fatal injury incidents involving tanker trucks, with 44 deaths.
And of course, every injury is one too many, especially if they can be prevented. One way to tell is by looking at some of the top risks for workers around cargo tankers.
The first thing to look at when it comes to cargo tanker safety is to understand the top reasons that workers would leave the ground and climb to the top of a cargo tanker. These are the reasons that may most likely lead to a dangerous fall because the worker is not on terra firma.
In no particular order, here are the top reasons that a worker climbs atop a cargo tanker and increases his risk of trouble:
- Doing a security check;
- Taking out samples of the material in the tanker;
- Checking the equipment;
- Loading or unloading the product;
- Determining the level of the liquid in the tanker;
- Starting vapor recovery or unloading;
- Performing an inspection or conducting regular maintenance;
- Washing the tanks;
- Removing snow or ice; and
- Discharging the heel (any remaining liquid or cargo after unloading).
As you can see from this list, there are quite a few times that a driver or worker would find himself off the ground around a cargo tanker, but you can also see that there are ways that some of these activities could be done from the ground or have some safety tools or measures in place to mitigate the risk of slips and falls.
This blog post introduces the start of Weaver and Sink’s article and sets the table for the several pages that will come, and what I will do is break it down into smaller pieces for another one of these serials that come together. My next post will go into the three case studies the article authors wrote up to explain some of the incidents that have happened, in order to elucidate the larger points about addressing preventable hazards and risks so workers can stay safe.