OSHA Initiates Protection Over Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana from Confined Space Dangers

OSHA Initiates Protection Over Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana from Confined Space Dangers

After lives were taken in Texas and Oklahoma less than one year apart, OSHA decided it was time to intervene.

Four lives were lost for those working in the tank cleaning industry in less than one year in Pasadena, Texas and Hugo, Oklahoma as a part of a trend in preventable workplace deaths in the region. A worker was cleaning out the inside of a tank trailer in Pasadena in December 2018 when he/she was exposed to hazards, as well as a co-worker who attempted to rescue the worker. Months after that, in August of 2020, two cleaning workers entered a natural gas tanker on a railcar in Hugo and fell victim to its vapors.

Since 2016, Dallas region’s OSHA investigated 36 workers’ deaths in the transportation and tank cleaning industry. As was the case in the two towns, failing to follow confined space entry permit requirements and take required steps to prevent workers from inhaling harmful substances can lead to fatality. These OSHA offices conducted 136 inspections in the industry since 2016 and established the Regional Emphasis Program. The program will raise awareness among employers in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, in industries that typically engage in “tank cleaning activities, including trucking, rail and road transportation, remediation services, material recovery and waste management services.”

According to a press release, transportation tanks on trucks, trailers or railcars require cleaning and inspection before they are refilled for transport. Workers who clean these tanks between uses have a high risk to toxic exposure to vapors from chemicals, decaying crops, waste and other substances that could lead to fire and explosions.

“Too often, employers allow workers to enter tanks without testing atmospheric conditions, completing confined space entry permits or providing adequate respiratory protection,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Eric S. Harbin in Dallas. “Companies with active safety and health programs that train workers to identify hazardous conditions and use required protective measures can prevent serious and fatal injuries.”

Following the three-month outreach, the program encourages OSHA to schedule and inspect targeted industries in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

About the Author

Shereen Hashem is the Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety magazine.

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