QSI Implements Training Program Designed for Tank Trailer Cleaning

March 1, 1999
Quala Systems Inc (QSI) of Exton, Pennsylvania, had an in-depth safety training program for tank cleaning employees but no detailed program for the fundamental

Quala Systems Inc (QSI) of Exton, Pennsylvania, had an in-depth safety training program for tank cleaning employees but no detailed program for the fundamental principles involved in the cleaning process. Today, an additional program is being implemented, led by John Allen, QSI director of quality and training, who spent two years designing and writing the procedures.

"The program was formulated to give tank cleaners the knowledge of various types of tank trucks, equipment associated with tank trucks, and QSI tank cleaning equipment," says Allen. "Tank cleaning is a very difficult job, and on-the-job training is not enough. That was when then Vice-President of Operations J Langness (currently president of QSI) said that we needed a company-wide standard covering the basics." The new training began in June of 1998.

Allen knows of what he speaks. He spent 11 years as a tank cleaner in Branford, Connecticut, before joining QSI in a management role for Chemical Leaman Tank Lines Corp, former owner of QSI. QSI is now a subsidiary of Quality Distribution Inc, which was formed following the merger of Chemical Leaman Tank Lines Corp and MTL Inc.

As Allen garnered more experience as a wash facility manager, environmental manager, regional general manager, and field operations director, he was anxious to develop the training program. Several drafts of procedures were sent to company regional managers for review.

"Some people in the industry think tank cleaners don't need to know this information," says Allen. "Often, the cleaners do not receive the recognition they deserve, but if they aren't doing the job, the tank trailers aren't moving. It's a tough job. We think this new training will speed up the process and enhance the cleaning quality."

Ten of the 31 QSI wash racks were targeted for the initial training. The others will be added later. When the first segment is completed, employees who received the training will be given written and hands-on tests to determine program effectiveness. The tests are custom-designed for each employee's length of experience.

"This will help us keep track of how the program is going and if it needs to be adjusted," Allen says. The plan is to have all wash rack employees receive a rating based on a three-level category, First, Second, and Third Technician. A designation patch will be supplied to be worn on the uniform.

The eight-hour classroom training program encompasses various cleaning techniques, procedures used with specific products, rack safety, tools and fittings, and housekeeping. Classes are usually conducted on Saturday, and employees are paid to attend.

"The program does not go into detail on safety, except by reference, since QSI's safety training is a separate, detailed program consisting of more than 12 modules," Allen points out.

Divided into two parts, technical training and administrative, the program targets the dual responsibilities of the cleaners.

"Too often, we find that tank cleaners work on and around tank trailers, but may or may not know the technical differences between them," Allen says. "We teach identification, such as MC306/DOT406, MC307/DOT407, and MC312/DOT412, and what products they carry."

Trainees learn about pneumatic and vacuum dry bulk trailers, IM101 and IM102 tank containers. Components are covered, including cleanout caps, dome lids, vacuum breaker and pressure-relief valves. To simplify instruction, Allen provides drawings and diagrams with parts labeled.

Fourteen basic procedures used to clean a tank are discussed. He lists six primary procedures, including (1) steam and dry; (2) flush and dry; (3) flush, steam, and dry; (4) caustic wash; (5) detergent wash; and (6) presolve wash.

Six secondary procedures are taught: (1) deodorize, flush/steam, and dry; (2) deodorize, detergent wash; (3) deodorize, caustic wash; (4) recirculate presolve, caustic wash; (5) recirculate presolve, detergent wash; and (6) special methods.

"Then, there are the two others that I call NEW," says Allen. "That means that nothing else works and it's hand-labor time. There's nothing unusual here. It's all very typical of the industry, but the cleaners need to know the specific procedures."

The training stresses difficulties encountered with products that are hard to clean, such as latex: why a cold water flush may be necessary, why the tank must be checked to see if product is setting up, and why it is necessary to determine if confined space entry is required before continuing the work.

Cleaning agents used in the process are explained. "Caustics demand certain procedures to be effective," Allen says. "Strength, cleaning duration, and maintaining the temperature at required levels. Employees need to know the limitations of spinners and cleaning solutions."

While in-depth technical information is provided in the sessions, Allen emphasizes training for basic tools such as wrenches, pliers, hammers, flashlights, putty knives, razor blade scrapers, and screwdrivers. He discusses the importance of environmental considerations at tank cleaning facilities. "I explain why it's necessary to control odors, to use deodorizers, and to take care that an odor doesn't escape and spread out of a tank opening."

Other subjects include general cleaning rack safety, moving tank trailers in and out of the bays, personal protective equipment, waste handling, work platform housekeeping, and inspecting the tank for any remaining product.

Because a tank cleaner's job doesn't include just technical expertise, Allen included the administrative section. "Customer service means as much as a clean, dry, odor-free tank," he says. "It entails documentation of all aspects of our business."

He explains to employees that documentation provides a quick response to customer questions and a record of compliance for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. Accurate documentation also ensures that the wash rack is fully compensated.

The training sessions familiarize employees with the material safety data sheet (MSDS) that must be on file at the tank cleaning facility before work can begin on a tank trailer.

Employees receive instruction on entering information on the billing and heel notification and documentation forms.

Training may be Allen's primary duty, but he is also promoting better working conditions for tank cleaners. For example, he is involved in introducing a brighter work light for interior inspections. Typically, he says, a 100-watt light bulb in a fixture is used to illuminate the inside of a tank. QSI plans to introduce a halogen bulb in an explosive-proof fixture that will improve visibility. QSI also is working on a project to develop a new cleaning procedure to clean the outer and inner surfaces of hoses in one mechanized method.

These innovations and the training program are part of QSI's facilities that are centered in an area east of the Mississippi, as well as locations in Texas, Louisiana, and California.

Training will continue throughout the company's system with the help of facility managers whom Allen has trained. "Everywhere I go, I talk to tank cleaners. I am really pleased with this program," he says.