Hazardous Materials Self-Monitoring Might Ease OSHA Tank Wash Rules

June 1, 1998
Tank Wash owners can help alleviate the need for certain additional Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) hazardous materials regulations

Tank Wash owners can help alleviate the need for certain additional Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) hazardous materials regulations by monitoring and controlling z-listed products that may appear at their racks, said William C McNutt, president for the WCM Group Inc.

He presented the information at the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) annual tank cleaning seminar held April 6-7 in Nashville, Tennessee.

"We never know what's going to show up on the rack, and often aren't given enough lead time to prepare for it," said McNutt. "We can't tell shippers we won't clean a certain product anymore. Unless we are just cleaning tanks hauling distilled water, we're probably going to have one of these hazardous products."

When wash racks identify hazardous materials, and monitor and handle them appropriately, the need for OSHA to step in decreases. The alternative to self-monitoring is more regulation and enforcement from the government. "OSHA has a pretty strict formula for how you write the check," he said. "They have a high propensity for fines."

In addition to meeting OSHA standards by monitoring hazardous materials, a tank wash owner reduces liability by documenting the materials and methods used in handling them, which included tight controls on equipment and employees, he said. "If you haven't been monitoring the materials, you can't prove you were doing the right thing."

The list of hazardous products is long, said Gary D Ramey, WCM Group earth sciences director. "Odds are, you handle a minimum of 10 hazardous materials, and some of you handle as many as 100," he said.

Employees can be at risk when inappropriately handling hazardous materials. These risks call for employers to be concerned about the health and welfare of their workers and to comply with existing laws and OSHA regulations, Ramey said. Monitoring and compliance bring not only safety for people, but withstand OSHA scrutiny and help limit the administration's expanding monitoring expectations.

"We're seeing an increase in OSHA inspections," he said. The administration's fines vary from up to $1,000 per violation in an other-than-serious incident to up to $7,000 per violation for serious incidents. Willful incidents can bring fines, up to $70,000 per violation, and multiple penalties by the number of repeated incidents. "Thus, million-dollar penalties are possible," he noted.

Civil liability lawsuits also can result in costly verdicts when hazardous materials have not been handled properly. "Plaintiffs go for the money," Ramey said, noting that many companies with connections to an incident may find themselves as defendants. A class action lawsuit also may involve many plaintiffs.

"It is extremely difficult to prove past practices of compliance without monitoring or documentation," he said. "Your insurance may not apply if laws were violated. In the best case, you will have huge legal bills and in the worst - well, you don't want to think about it."

Tank wash rack managers should evaluate exposures that exceed action levels, test as necessary to define actual exposures, prevent exposures above permissible limits, and conduct medical monitoring of employees where required.

"OSHA wants proof you can handle tank entries," Ramey said.

To prevent exposure above permissible limits, engineering controls should be implemented

that include purging trailers to a control device such as a flare or scrubber; using forced-air workspace ventilation; and modifying cleaning protocols. Employers should keep an administrative eye on employees' work hours and number of daily exposures to hazardous materials. He advised employers to become familiar with OSHA requirements for personal protective equipment and see that employees are well trained in its use. Employee training should always be conducted and documented before any tank entry.

The NTTC, through its members, is evaluating direct-reading monitoring instruments. The tank cleaning council is evaluating confined spaced entry issues such as the typical concentrations inside a tank believed to be clean and the concentration level for entry permit exemption.

The issue of how to take samples inside tanks is subject to a variety of interpretations, Ramey said. Among the procedures is screening with direct reading instruments. Active sampling collection with pumps uses activated carbon tubes, specific filters, and special media tubes. Laboratory analytical methods are available, he noted. "There are great resources out there," he said.

Another issue expected to impact the industry is disposal of vapor residue. "Watch for this," he said. "The question is will we have flare scrubbers on site?"

Exposure limits for workers handling hazardous materials also are being considered by OSHA.

Despite the issues, z-listed materials are the chemicals that keep the industry going, said Christopher A Wrenn, eastern office sales manager for Rae Systems. Proof that wash rack employees are entering a safe atmosphere can come from proper monitoring of tank entries at parts per million (PPM) levels, he said.

Employees can be encouraged to take responsibility for their own actions. If they are given monitors, they can examine a situation and handle it appropriately. "Having a monitor allows them to readily and quickly make a decision," he said. "But they need monitors appropriate for the situation."

Wrenn recommends parts per million monitoring of clean cargo tanks to determine whether they are clean enough for entry without respiratory protection. The PPM level can be measured with colorimetric tubes, metal oxide sensors (MOS), and photoionization detectors (PID).

The PID measures organic compounds containing carbon and some inorganic compounds without carbon. It does not measure radiation, air, common toxins, natural gas, and acid gases.

Although they are sensitive and accurate in measuring chemicals at PPM levels, the PIDs are not selective.

DOT numbers and transportation manifests often adequately identify the chemicals that were in the tank. The wash rack attendant need only read the PID number that he must stay under to make a safe entry for that particular DOT number. This is a simple task that only requires adding one step to any wash procedure, he said.

PID numbers are derived by dividing the exposure limit for a chemical by the PID sensitivity factor known as the correction factor. "Use your head for selectivity and the PID for sensitivity," he said.

While confined space monitors measure carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, lower explosive limit (LEL), and oxygen, they don't provide complete protection because they miss the chemicals that were in the tank, he said. LEL sensors can measure many of the combustible chemicals transported. However, they are designed to measure explosivity, not toxicity, so they lack the sensitivity to prove that tanks are clean.

"Using LEL to measure toxicity is like using a yardstick to measure the thickness of a sheet of paper," Wrenn said. "LEL is more for acute toxicity rather than PPM. Exploding is aform of acute toxicity. You die instantly. PPM monitoring protects workers from chronic or long-term toxicity.

"Although low levels of toxic chemicals may not kill a worker instantly, they may lead to death over the long term by more insidious means such as liver damage, cancer, or lung disease. PPM monitoring of clean tanks can not only help assure workers that they are entering a safe environment, but help them enjoy their retirement free from injuries or illness."

When respiratory protection for an employee is required in the handling of dangerous products, employers should be familiar with a new OSHA rule effective April 8, 1998, said James Buchholz, health and safety manager for Ferguson Harbor Inc.

The rule originated partially because of advances in technology that outdated the respiratory protection standard adopted by OSHA in 1971. OSHA's review of data in 1994 and 1995 indicated that compliance failure regarding the 1971 rule was a critical factor in some fatalities and catastrophic injuries.

Buchholz listed several requirements of the rule, including criteria for the selection of respirator use. "You should evaluate the workplace for hazards and what type of respirators are needed for each particular situation," he said. A written respiratory protection program should be in place with specific worksite procedures listed for each site. An employee must be designated as a trained program administrator.

Another aspect of the rule pertains to an employee's vol- untary use of a respirator. Although employers aren't required to issue a respirator upon voluntary request, they should, Buchholz said. "If you do issue a respirator, the employee will have to be trained in its use," he said. "You are responsible for the equipment and medical evaluations."

All respirators must be certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and be used when there is immediate danger to life and health (IDLH). Oxygen deficient atmospheres are considered IDLH.

The medical evaluation is based on an extensive questionnaire or medical examination. Follow-up medical examinations are no longer required annually, but are prompted by certain answers to questions on the questionnaire, problems that have occurred with the use of a respirator, or other health problems.

Additional information must be provided to the medical examiner, including the type and weight of respirator, duration and frequency of use, physical work effort, and other items related to equipment use.

Medical evaluations can be ordered by management and are required if an employee reports related medical signs or symptoms. Should workplace conditions change, such as the handling of chemicals not handled previously or new work assignments, medical evaluations are required.

In addition to medical evaluations, the rule calls for accurate respirator fit testing, including negative and positive pressures. Buchholz suggested that all equipment purchased should interface with the face masks so that equipment can be interchanged. Often, when an employee's facial conditions change, fit testing must be reassessed and equipment may have to be adjusted.

Annual fit testing is required and the protocols are strict, he said. Testing is expected to take approximately 15 minutes per employee and several test options are available.

When using respirators, employees can have no facial hair. "That means not even stubble," he said. Glasses cannot interfere with the respirator seal. Buchholz said contact lens can cause eye irritation, especially when worn in a dusty work area.

Respirator maintenance requires cleaning, disinfecting, proper storage, inspection, and repairs. Respirators must also have an end of service life indicator.

Buchholz emphasized the importance of employee training to meet the requirements of the new rule. Employees must demonstrate that they understand the information involved in the use of a respirator. They must answer questions regarding use, fit, limitations, capabilities, malfunctions, storage, and medical problems.

In addition to employee training, the employer must have an ongoing program evaluation and extensive record keeping of medical evaluations and fit testing. The written program and records must be available for review and copying.

Provisions that recognize the special needs of small businesses were considered in making regulatory decisions, according to information from The Federal Register, January 8, 1998. The provisions for small companies include reduction in the number of repeat fit tests required for quantitative fit testing; using a questionnaire as a minimal medical evaluation tool to ascertain an employee's ability to use respirators rather than requiring a hands-on physical examination; reducing the amount of paperwork required in connection with medical evaluations; and other specific instances.

Companies wishing to determine the small business definition can contact OSHA at 202-219-4667. A small entity compliance guide was scheduled to be available April 8, 1998.

Despite a company's best intentions to comply with regulations, bureaucratic red tape does occur, said Marcel DeBruge, attorney with Balch & Bingham, LLP. OSHA rule interpretations vary in different areas of the country.

However, OSHA wants all tanks to be treated as if post-wash hazard is always there, no matter what product has been carried, said DeBruge. How the situation will be handled is unsure. In Columbus, Ohio, a company was allowed to conduct its own testing, overseen by OSHA, to determine the danger of tank entry, but in Mobile, Alabama, a similar company's procedures were deemed inappropriate. "You work hand-in-hand with one OSHA branch and then are cited by a different one," said DeBruge.

Yet another company was required to provide safety clothing for employees working inside tanks. Workers had the difficult assignment of wearing the full "moonsuit" while removing heels. "There had never been any injury on the site," he said. "The traces of substance were not a contact problem, but the inspector didn't agree."

The debate centers on the question of whether a cleaning eliminates a potential hazard. "There's no answer yet to that question," he said. The Mobile case is slated for hearings, and a final rule probably won't be handed down until late summer. If the case is appealed, more delays are expected because the appeals commission doesn't have enough sitting members for a quorum.

Despite bureaucratic problems, DeBruge recommended that companies take precautions in all aspects of handling hazardous materials.

Although testing for oxygen and flammable gas is relatively simple, he said testing for toxic materials is more difficult. "Right now, you can't get a straight answer from OSHA on what the law requires. It's not a good way to do business."

Testing every tank is too expensive, he said. He suggested that chemicals be grouped by properties to reach about five to six categories, and then initiate tests for the categories.

"Hire a certified hygienist for testing tanks for toxic materials," he said.

Failing to comply with OSHA requirements can bring stiff citations, particularly when the violation is deemed willful. One example resulted in a $136,000 fine and unfavorable publicity, he said.

No matter what the outcome of the cases, efforts from industry may be needed to reduce the threat of over-zealous OSHA enforcement. The burden of proof of compliance continues to lie with the company, he said.

Hazardous materials markings on trucks are also part of rules applying to the products. John Conley, NTTC vice-president, presented information clarifying Department of Transportation markings that apply to cargo tanks transporting Class 2 products. Section 172.328(b) requires that a cargo tank must be marked on each side and each end with the proper shipping product name. The placard can be displayed on the cargo tank or on a sign bracket installed on the tank.

Displaying the shipping name on the front bumper of the motor vehicle hauling a cargo tank does not satisfy the marking requirements. For gases such as propane, the shipping name must be marked and displayed in lettering, no less than 50 mm (2.0 inches) on each side and each end of the cargo tank. The same requirement applies to a tractor semi-trailer combination.