After 36 tank cleaning workers died in a Southern U.S. region since 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor said it is creating a new initiative to reduce risks faced by workers in the tank cleaning industry.
The department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced the new Regional Emphasis Program, which focuses on Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.
After an initial three-month outreach phase, the program would allow OSHA to schedule and inspect any targeted tank cleaning industries.
According to OSHA, recent deaths in Pasadena, Texas in December 2019 and in Hugo, Oklahoma in August 2020 are part of a "troubling trend of preventable workplace deaths in the region."
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Workers cleaning tanks, on trucks, trailers and railcars, are often exposed to toxic vapors from chemicals, OSHA regional administrator Eric S. Harbin said.
"Too often, employers allow workers to enter tanks without testing atmospheric conditions, completing confined space entry permits or providing adequate respiratory protection," Harbin said in a statement.
The new program will raise awareness among employers in the tank cleaning industry, which includes trucking and rail and road transportation along with others.
For the first three months of the program, the first phase of the program will include outreach through mailings to employers, as well as presentations to industry organizations and free consultation services, OSHA said.
Then, after the three months, the program allows OSHA to schedule and inspect "targeted industries" in the region.