PPE guidelines for tank decommissioning

Whether a tank has previously stored oil, gasoline, chemicals or other materials, decommissioning can be a hazardous business. The Oil Fired Technical Association (OFTEC) is the trade body recognised by the government, to advise on some of the issues involved. Their guidance is that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should always be worn during decommissioning activities. There could be an environmental issue with the soil which can be resolved by a soil remediation service. A company that offers this service is https://soilfix.co.uk/services/soil-groundwater-remediation .

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Clothing standards

Cotton is the preferred material for overalls, for those involved in decommissioning. Nylon is unsuitable because it can produce sparks of static electricity, and if these cause a flammable gas such as oil vapour to ignite, the nylon overall will melt.

Although overalls can be washed if a small amount of oil has been spilled on them, heavily contaminated PPE must be professionally laundered.

Hands need special protection for two reasons. First, within the tank there may be sharp surfaces or jagged parts of pipes and other fitments that could lead to abrasions and cuts. Second, skin must be protected from acids or oils. PPE gloves are usually PVC coated to provide extra protection. In many situations, gloves that end at the wrist are not suitable, particularly if there is then a gap between the glove and the cuff of the overall. So gauntlets are often preferred, particularly where there is any risk of splashing.

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Protection for head, eyes and ears

Oil residues can produce chemicals and gases during tank decommissioning. Besides representing a fire risk, these can damage eyes, especially if material splashes up. So, safety glasses are a must, and these are also important in providing protection from any cutting or breaking activities which might produce sparks or shrapnel.

All these activities are also noisy – and particularly if someone is working inside the tank, they will need ear protection, along with a suitably adjusted hard hat.

Boots

Safety boots should be worn because their protective toe caps provide protection against objects and even tools being dropped. These boots come in several different sole patterns and in various materials. This is to prevent slips in a range of conditions, such as in oily environments. Many safety boots also have special features, such as soles that are resistant to chemicals or free of static charge.