PPE Guidelines When Decommissioning Oil Storage Tanks

The Oil Fired Technical Association (OFTEC), the government-recognised trade body in this area, recommends that appropriate PPE be worn at all times when decommissioning oil storage facilities.

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Protective Clothing

Overalls should be made of cotton rather than nylon. Nylon can cause static build-up, which could lead to sparks, and if for any reason a fire does break out, nylon will immediately disintegrate if in contact with flames. Gloves should be PVC – actually, they are dipped in PVC rather than being made completely from PVC. These will protect hands from abrasions and cuts while also stopping oil or acids penetrating through to the skin.

These items must be in good condition and able to fully protect the individual. Overalls which have been exposed to a limited quantity of oil can be washed. However, those that have heavy contamination will need to be both washed and suitably dry-cleaned or laundered. After this they may need starching to stiffen the material.

Eye, Ear and Head Protection

Oil vapour can be present even in tanks that have been emptied and can affect the eyes. Chemicals and gases can also be present when oil residues are being removed from a tank and it is being cleaned and purged.

It’s therefore important that safety glasses or goggles are worn, and these will have the secondary effect of protecting the eyes from other hazards. Where tools are being used to decommission a tank, and there is hot work or cutting, there may be flying particles or shards of metal or sparks.

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All of these tank decommissioning activities, available from a company such as http://www.ashremediation.co.uk/tank-decommissioning/, tend to be noisy, so ear protection is a must – ear defenders are the preferred option here. Obviously, hard hats are necessary, and it’s important that any safety helmet is properly adjusted to give a secure fit.

Protection Against Vapours and Gases

A tank is by definition a confined space, so oil vapours could build up. Face masks will not protect against vapours of this kind. If there is any possibility of vapour being present, the people working in the tank will have to wear breathing apparatus. They need to have been trained in its use, with in-date training certificates.

A flammable gas detector can be used to check that a tank is gas-free and safe to work in.

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