storage tank maintenance safety

A fire occurred at Westlake Chemical Corporation on Jan 26, 2022, in Louisiana, causing 6 persons injured.

The fire occurred in the vicinity of a storage tank that had been out of service for maintenance.

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From the above accident story, what kind of safety lesson could we take?

At least, we can notice a very important keyword here, i.e. storage tank maintenance safety.

How we can prevent the same accident? Could we prevent that accident that involves a storage tank?

The answer is sure, we can by following best safety practices on it.

You will find the tips below.

So, be ready to learn from the series of safety tips of the day from this blog.

Storage Tank Maintenance Hazards

Despite its important role, regular storage tank maintenance contains several potential safety hazards that need our attention.

This work is an important activity in a plant cycle of operation, i.e. to ensure product quality, safety in operation as well as to prevent risks to the environment.

Such work is usually scheduled during the plant turnaround or long plant shut down.

In the view of safety, storage tank maintenance work has several potential safety hazards:

Those potential safety hazards require effective hazard control method implementation. Otherwise, an accident may happen as happened at Westlake Chemical Corporation recently.

Safety Tips on How to Prevent Fire and Explosion During Storage Tank Maintenance Work

We will not cover all the safety tips to control those above potential hazards. However, in this post, we will focus only on how to prevent fire and explosion hazards when you are doing storage tank maintenance work.

To perform safe maintenance work inside a storage tank or at a closed area to a storage tank, you should confirm that the following tips have been done completely:

Tips #1 Do Perfect Preparation
Never start any work inside a storage tank without perfect preparation. If you fail to do this critical step, then you are putting yourself and your colleagues in a dangerous situation.

Tips #2 Only Trained Workers Allowed
Allow only trained and experienced workers to work inside a storage tank or at the vicinity.

Tips #3 Remove Flammable Liquid Completely
A fire can only occur if the fire triangle is complete. Remove any remaining flammable liquid from the tank completely. Including in this step is to remove combustible dust that may still remain inside.

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Carry out water washing or other method to completely remove them.

If you will carry out a hot work closed to the tank, make sure you have an active barrier between them. And move away any flammable liquid or combustible dust/solid surround it.

Tips #4 Perform Lockout Tagout
This is a very important step to do to make sure that no flammable liquid can enter to the storage during the work due to any reason, including miss operation. And everyone knows it with clear notifications and tags.

Tips #5 Prepare Safety Equipment in Advance
Since working inside a storage tank is categorized as confined space work, then you must prepare special safety equipment for this work.

Make sure that you have already inspected and tested them before use.

Tips #6 Always Follow Storage Tank Maintenance Procedure
Taking a shortcut can be fatal. Always follow the standard operating procedure in doing this job. And you have to make sure that all workers who involve in that work already understand the procedure. Reeducate them if necessary.

Tips #7 Prepare for An Emergency Situation
No one will dream of it. However, you have to prepare yourself in facing an emergency situation. This is done in order to eliminate or reduce the risk when it happens.

Tips #8 Schedule the Work in the Right Time
Working in the daytime is better than at night. Always schedule tank maintenance is the right time. The purpose is to lower associated risks.

Conclusion

Storage tank maintenance is an important job. However, this work contains many potential safety hazards, including fire and explosion hazards. To lower this risk, you have to follow safety best practices as mentioned above.

From the above practical safety tips, which one have you not performed yet?

Or do you have other safety tips to mention here? Please share with us.

  1. Above Ground Storage Tanks: Practical Guide to Construction, Inspection, and Testing
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  3. Above Ground Bulk Storage Tank Emergencies
  4. Handbook of Storage Tank Systems: Codes: Regulations, and Designs