ASSE- American Society of Safety Engineers
Fall injuries remain among the most disabling injuries in the US. Research done by Liberty Mutual in 2014 revealed falls, on the same level and to a lower level, are two of the top four most disabling workplace injuries. They also found that falls to a lower level resulted in $5.12 billion in costs in 2012. Injuries incurred from lower level falls are particularly prominent in the transport industry as drivers Cargo tanks trucks create multiple falling hazards for drivers who frequently climb atop transportation tanks to check equipment, load product or wash tanks. There are many steps employers can take to prevent these type of falls.
Many falls occur when drivers climb onto tankers to check fill levels and while it is important to monitor fill levels, there are tools available to help drivers do this task easily and safely. When the gauge is covered, methods such as metering skids, weight systems and bottom loading can be used to safely check fill levels. Additionally, tankers can be equipped with an automatic shut-off valve that allow a driver to monitor levels from the ground regardless of fill opening location. When full, the valve automatically shuts off without driver involvement.
Another way employers can avoid driver falls is by using fill-level gauges. Gauges rage widely in price and advancement of technology. Some examples of widely used gauges include:
Sight Eye Gauge: This is one of the more simple and least expensive type of gauge. It is composed of a glass or plastic bowl with a metal frame. The bowl provides a view into the fuel level and is usually adhered to the rear of the tank. Three sight eyes are usually used to indicate low, medium and high fuel levels and provide visibility of levels without mounting tanker. One 5’ sight eye is usually about $40 but this tool is limited in that it is reliant on eye level views.
Sight Tube: A sight tube is another inexpensive gauge that relies on a glass tube running vertically up tanker filled with a liquid (usually water) that matches and exposes fuel level. The parts of a sight tube average around $170 but downsides include freezing of marker liquid in gold water and fragileness of tubing leading to frequent breakage.
Float Gauge: Another low tech gauge that uses floats buoyed on fuel surface to indicate levels. Levels are visible through a rod connected to the float. Float gauges cost around $230 and can be inaccurate if float is damaged.
Load Cells: One of the more expensive and complex gauge types are load cells. Load cells measure strain on framework of tank to evaluate fill level. They must be built into original tank and cannot be retroactively fitted and can cost around $10,000.
Depending on the type, gauges can be costly for businesses but not as costly as a worker’s fall. The benefit greatly outweighs any initial cost incurred. The DOT regulates gauges and more information on these regulations can be found at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/title49/section/393.67