CTRMC seeks to get workers off the tops of tanks

Sept. 8, 2015
CARGO Tank Risk Management Committee (CTRMC) member Dan Wright knows a tank truck driver who fell off the top of a trailer and was paralyzed from the neck down for five years.

CARGO Tank Risk Management Committee (CTRMC) member Dan Wright knows a tank truck driver who fell off the top of a trailer and was paralyzed from the neck down for five years. He has finally started walking with two canes.

“That’s the reality of falling from the top of a trailer,” said Wright, vice-president of safety, security, and compliance for Transport Service, DistTech and Specialty Products Group, which are part of the Kenan Advantage Group (KAG). “This guy was not out of shape. His agility didn’t cause him to fall. When that happens, OSHA and everybody and their brother comes in. This was a catastrophic accident.”

That puts a personal touch on a huge issue: drivers on top of tanks. Wright reviewed strategies for keeping drivers and other workers off the tops of tanks during the National Tank Truck Carriers Tank Truck Safety & Security Council Annual Meeting June 9-11 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

One of CTRMC’s four long-term goals is to develop solutions to address all of the top 10 reasons for workers on the top of tanks: assuring security, checking equipment (including cleanouts, manhole, and venting), extracting samples, loading or unloading product, assessing liquid content levels, initiating air unloading, vapor recovery, performing maintenance and routine inspections, washing tanks, removing snow, and discharging heel.

“This is an enormous undertaking,” Wright said, “and will take years of effort.”

The other long-term goals:

•  Develop a Vision 2020 for future common tank trailer types. The elements: cost effective, weight effective, ergonomic, accommodating loading racks, “balcony” platform, collapsible outer rails, and ladder offset from manhole. This has been done and is available from www.ttmanet.org.

•  Develop a hydraulically actuated cleanout valve assembly with standard dimensions. “How many times have you guys had caps fly off?” Wright asked. “We’ve had caps fly off and hit windshields of police cars. That’s not good. The driver says, ‘I checked that many times.’ But as we find out, some of these caps are coming from China. The threads are not matching what’s on the trailer. But Girard Equipment Inc has come up with a prototype device. It actually screws down on top of the cleanout cap and you can have it hydraulically lift up and out of the way. The prototype is being tested now.”

•  Pursue cleaning technology and processes to preclude necessity to use cleanout nozzles near tank ends. “We can totally eliminate them. We’re bringing new drivers into the industry and telling them, ‘I want you to climb up that ladder and walk out to the end of the trailer and take off the cleanout cap, make sure it has a gasket in it, and tighten it down.’ Some of these guys think, ‘I got to climb all the way up there?’ If that driver falls off, whose fault is it?”

Other initiatives:

•  Loading and unloading guidelines for foodgrade tanks are available for free at www.cargotanksafety.org.

•  Electronic seals. “Work is being done on a new prototype.”

•  Nitrogen rich atmospheres. “That’s a tough one. There are so many different schools of thought. We’re a firm believer that anytime nitrogen touches a trailer, our driver knows we tag. Others are saying, ‘Wait a minute, if you tag it and don’t tag it, it’s a false sense of security sometimes.’ I’d rather give a false sense of security and the driver knows it than not tag at all. I tell everybody in our tank washes, ‘I don’t care if it’s tagged or not. Expect that trailer to have nitrogen on it.”

•  Benchmarking. “We need your help. Anything you can do to help measure the issues will assist in this.”

CTRMC member Steve Torres, safety director for Schneider National Bulk Carriers, the specialty chemical and fuel-hauling division of Schneider National Inc, outlined the committee’s short-term goals:

•  Work with TTMA to develop a Technical Bulletin on “General Ladders.” This has been done and the initial version of TTMA TB No. 125 has been published and is available from www.ttmanet.org.

“Most injuries actually happen when an associate is working around a ladder,” Torres said. “So we decided to attack the ladder issue. You think a ladder’s a ladder, but there are a variety of ladder configurations.”

•  Develop a training and education module on the proper process for ascending/descending ladders and walkway systems. “Sounds kind of simple, but there are some best practices and some not-so-good practices. You can’t just tell somebody to go out and climb a trailer. So we put together something simple.” The third edition is available for free at www.cargotanksafety.org. Click on the “Trailer Climbing Guide” header.

•  Create a North American hierarchy protocol for the protection of workers on the top of tanks. That is finished, and the first edition is available for free at www.cargotanksafety.org. Click on the “Falls Protocol” header.

•  Increase participation from major industry stakeholders. “This is an ongoing thing. We have teamed with ACC, ISBT, NTTC, TTMA, wash racks, and other stakeholders. We could still use involvement. Although we have NTTC supporting us, we’d really like to see more shippers involved. We’re making a great effort with the workers themselves. We need to continue to assure involvement across stakeholder groups—and geographies.”  ♦

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About the Author

Rick Weber | Associate Editor

Rick Weber has been an associate editor for Trailer/Body Builders since February 2000. A national award-winning sportswriter, he covered the Miami Dolphins for the Fort Myers News-Press following service with publications in California and Australia. He is a graduate of Penn State University.