A “confined space” is a space that: (1) is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work, (2) has limited or restricted means for entry or exit; and (3) is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.
Storage tanks fit that definition, and entering one without the proper support and staff in place is not only against regulations but also highly dangerous. Most confined space teams that deal with tank entries are made up of entrants, attendants, and supervisors. The entrant is the employee at the highest risk, and it’s the tank entry supervisor’s job to keep them safe and adhering to OSHA guidelines. Let’s look at those regulations and how a tank entry supervisor can mean the difference between a safely, efficiently completed job and potential injuries.
The Hazards of Tank Entry
Tank entry is a form of confined space work and therefore presents challenges and dangers that all workers must be aware of. The Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) reports that from 2011 to 2018, there were 1,030 worker fatalities involving a confined space. Of these fatalities, 60% were confined space rescuers, while instances of multiple fatalities occur most commonly among “would be” rescuers, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
First and foremost, as with all confined spaces, is the limited access to entrances and exits. Other dangers include atmospheric conditions, breathability within the space, ventilation problems, and even the presence of flammable materials. There are regulations around how to avoid these hazards, and workers must follow those to keep everyone on the site safe.
These regulations vary from state to state, but OSHA does have federal minimum standards, rules, and regulations that SITEX personnel are familiar with. That’s because the top priority should always be safety and not finishing a job faster or easier with shortcuts. As experts in safety and rescue services, SITEX works with customers to understand their tank entry needs, providing them with a dedicated and certified tank entry supervisor to keep workers compliant and safe.
Tank entry supervisors are a required part of any confined space team. As stated above, 60% of confined space fatalities were “would be” rescuers. These situations can be mitigated by working with trained and certified rescue teams who know how to work in confined spaces to keep workers safe. Dangerous situations that lead to deaths can also be avoided entirely by working with a dedicated tank entry supervisor that has experience in your industry.
SITEX tank entry supervisors are highly trained personnel who directly represent the employer and assume responsibility for the confined space. These individuals are trained and ready to act as entrants or attendants if needed. Their duties vary depending on the job and the space, but typically, they are responsible for determining whether or not acceptable entry conditions exist and authorizing entry into the space. Supervisors also oversee entry operations and will terminate the entry upon completion of the task. Other tank entry supervisor tasks include the following according to OSHA regulations:
Tank entry supervisors can also help mitigate risk and injury on jobs sites by keeping unauthorized entrants away from the confined space. Unauthorized personnel within the space can lead not only to injuries but fines and litigation issues. Having a trained tank entry supervisor on-site will keep the right people and unauthorized personnel away from the permitted zone.
Our personnel have deep experience in tank entry and are familiar with OSHA regulations, industry standards, and the specific needs of each client we work with. They also understand the safe tank entry requirements that lead to reduced risk of injuries on-site and can work to control hazards through tank isolation and the proper use of PPE if needed. That’s because SITEX offers industry expertise in EH&S services and can work across all three spaces to keep your employees safe.
Whether the tanks you are working with are new or dated, there are still hazards to deal with. Properly working around storage tanks and keeping employees safe requires a dedicated safety expert or team that understands the rules and regulations front to back. While there is no replacement for an on-site expert, there are several ways workplaces can reinforce storage tank safety for worker health and compliance.
First, conduct a thorough job hazard analysis before any work begins. A pre-entry checklist is always a good first step so teams can discuss hazards and what tasks need to be completed. Next, work to increase visibility through a spotter, if possible, within the space and identify any permits required or signs and labels needed.
When the work begins, monitoring atmospheric conditions as well as gas in the space is paramount. Appropriate safety equipment can also help mitigate any injuries from chemicals that may be present. Keeping these standards top of mind can be done through continuous training, so the team is regularly being educated about working in these difficult spaces.
Finally, preplan with confined space safety and rescue teams and post reminders of emergency response protocol with contact phone numbers. There are many pre-work and administrative tasks that go into properly setting up confined spaces for work, and it can be daunting to accomplish. Rather than cutting corners to missing important tasks that must be completed before the work begins, reach out to an expert in tank entry like SITEX. After all, we invest heavily in our tank entry personnel and technology so that you don’t have to.
Contact us today to discuss your tank entry needs and learn more about how a tank entry supervisor can keep your workers and jobsite safe.