Falls From Cargo Tankers: Keeping Workers on the Ground
- Albert Weaver III (L.A. Weaver Co. Inc.) | Cynthia H. Sink (L.A. Weaver Co. Inc.)
- Document ID
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- Professional Safety
- Publication Date
- August 2016
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 28 - 35
- 2016. American Society of Safety Engineers
- 0 in the last 30 days
- 39 since 2007
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- Working on top of cargo tankers presents risks such as falling and exposure to hazardous materials.
- Using a fill-level gauge to determine the fill level can eliminate the need for personnel to be on top of a cargo tanker.
- Considerations for installing a fill-level gauge include pricing, safety and applicability to the material being transported.
- With the cost of fill-level gauges starting at $40, their addition to cargo tankers increases worker safety without placing an undue cost burden on the transporter.
Fall injuries, both on the same level and to a lower level, remain among the most disabling injuries in the U.S. Researchers at Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety (2014) examined Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) injury data of all workplace injuries to determine which events caused an employee to miss 6 or more days of work, then ranked those events by total workers’ compensation costs. The results of their examination showed that the leading causes and direct costs of the most disabling workplace injuries in 2012 were:
- overexertion involving an outside source;
- falls on the same level;
- struck by an object or equipment;
- falls to a lower level.
Falls to a lower level accounted for $5.12 billion in costs in 2012. According to Federal Highway Administration (FHWA, 2014) 2,643,567 million ton-miles of freight were transported in the U.S. during 2011 (a ton-mile is a single ton of goods that is transported for 1 mile). Collecting the following data involving semis, tractor-trailers and tanker trucks due to falls to a lower level, BLS (2016) reports that between 2011 and 2013, 7,450 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses occurred involving days away from work and 44 fatalities. This is BLS category code 8421 including tanker trucks and flatbed trucks except straight trucks, logging trucks and car haulers. It also excludes fire trucks, which are category 8425. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration defines semitrailer as “any motor vehicle, other than a pole trailer, which is designed to be drawn by another motor vehicle and is constructed so that some part of its weight rests upon the self-propelled towing motor vehicle” (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations).
Cargo Tank Truck Falling Hazards
When loading a cargo tanker, climbing on top to observe the fill level creates a fall hazard. Adding to the possibility of having a fall, certain cargo can create hazardous gases or slick surfaces. According to Cargo Tank Risk Management Committee (CTRMC, 2014), the top 10 reasons (not ranked) that workers climb atop transportation tanks are to:
- ensure security;
- check equipment;
- extract samples;
- load/unload product;
- assess liquid content levels;
- initiate air unloading or vapor recovery;
- perform maintenance and inspections;
- wash tanks;
- remove snow;
- discharge heel (any material remaining in a tank following unloading, delivery or discharge of the transported cargo).
The following case studies exemplify falls from tanker trucks where the cargo transported fell outside DOT regulations for gauges on tankers.
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