Cargo tankers are tricky when it comes to safety.
There have been a number of incidents involving workers or drivers getting on top of these cargo tankers, which seem to be relatively safe, and yet a recent article in Professional Safety magazine brought home the reality that these tankers can have several hazards that put workers and drivers at risk.
The article, written by Albert Weaver III and Cynithia Sink, was about cargo tankers and the dangers they present, not only as vehicles themselves, but also the risks and hazards involved with some of the materials that these tankers carry. The early part of the article brought up three specific case studies of workers or drivers being severely injured or killed by working around cargo tankers, all of whom were actually on top of the tanker as the tanks were being filled.
While drivers and workers may get on top of a tanker truck for a number of reasons (which are mentioned in this post), and the case studies featured were highlighting one particular reason, and one that is generally the most common – getting on top of the tanker while the tank is being filled, and making sure that the tanker is filled to the right level.
In other words, these workers and drivers are checking the level of the substance in the tanker visually as it fills, rather than using a common device these days knows as a fill gauge.
Gauges could have saved the three lives lost in the case studies (as noted in this post). But even if a company wanted to work around the fill gauge, there are other devices and procedures that could have been employed to keep these workers safe while working with dangerous materials and standing on top of a tanker truck that is often 15 or 20 feet above the ground.
The fill level of these tankers is very important for safety, especially for the amount of weight the vehicle can bear, as well as the amount of room in a tanker in case of splashing and rolling of the liquid so it does not cause leaks though the hatch or in other areas. In some ways, you just can’t keep drivers or workers from geting up on the tnaker to make sure the tankers fill to the right level so the truck remains safe on its travels.
However, there are systems and procedures available that can keep these workers and drivers from having incidents that put their lives at risk. In most of these cases though, gauges are just one part of the entire system that provides safety to drivers and workers. Weaver and Sink go into some description about such items as metering skids, weight systems and a bottom-loading process. But one type of technology that has actually been in force for more than 70 years is still one of the safest ways to work.
The automatic shutoff system has ben in place with various tanker trucks, and in several other industries since the 1940s, and this technology would serve well in enhancing safety around tankers. The automatic shutoff system can be implemented with many tankers and would serve as a way to shut off the flow into the tank as the tank gets filled to a certain level. the system can operate without the worker or driver having to be on top of the truck, and instead could stay on the ground with a meter to watch the fill level. The system is not connected to the truck, however.
To help stay in control of the safety of the truck, companies should not rely on shutoff systems for the flowpipes, and instead should look at tanker fill gauges to be installed on tanker trucks – gauges that can be viewed from the ground without having to do a visual assessment of the fill from on top of the truck.
The next post will go into more detail about the different types of fill gauges available, as well as the cost of them so that you can all know definitively that the investment is more than worth the potential cost of not having one installed on your tanker trucks. Even the most expensive gauges (spoiler alert) can still easily be justified compared to the potential cost of an incident involving a worker or driver on top of a tanker to do what a fill gauge can do on safer ground.