Safety Tips: Welding Fuel Tanks

By HSE East Africa | Monday May 28, 2018

The process of welding gas or diesel tanks can be extremely dangerous.  There is the possibility of igniting fuel vapors, and if the welder is using the welding process of MIG or TIG inside a fuel storage tank, they are in danger of suffocating from fumes if argon gas is used.  This not only poses a threat to the welder but to anyone who tries to rescue the welder from the interior of the fuel tank.

Develop, implement, and enforce procedures for welding on fuel tanks.

Before any welding is done on a fuel tank, it should be drained, cleaned, and tested to ensure that it is free of any flammable fuel or vapors. When possible, replace the fuel tank rather than repair it. Welding on fuel tanks should only be done in specialized shops with certified welders. If nitrogen or argon is used for purging of tanks, constant testing must take place before and during the welding process. If a fuel tank requires welding while mounted on a vehicle, the following procedures or a similar one should be used:

  • Disconnect the battery and remove or turn off ignition sources before draining the tank.
  • Drain tanks only in well-ventilated areas, preferably outdoors.
  • Drain the fuel into containers that are approved for use with flammable liquids.
  • Do not drain gasoline or diesel tanks over or near inspection pits.
  • Use approved siphoning equipment to remove fuel. Do not use a hose.
  • If the fuel tank is removed from the vehicle, or if welding will be carried out near the fuel lines, ensure that the lines are drained and the vapors are purged from the lines before the welding activities are started.
  • Thoroughly clean the surface on which the tank is mounted.
  • Ventilate, purge, clean, and re-test before welding any area or space where a harmful atmosphere may exist.
  • Filling the tank with water to within inches of the welding area can provide an extra measure of safety.

In addition, purge bladders and purge monitors are available to make welding on fuel tanks safer.

Establish and maintain an IIPP in language(s) employees can comprehend.

Having a documented safety program and an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) has proven to be an effective method of ensuring all employees receive the necessary safety information needed to do their jobs. An effective IIPP should contain the following:

  • The name of a person or persons with authority and responsibility for implementing the IIPP.
  • A system for ensuring that employees comply with safe and health work practices.
  • A system for communicating with employees in a form readily understandable by all affected employees on matters relating to occupational safety and health, including provisions designed to encourage employees to inform the employer of hazards at the worksite without fear of reprisal.
  • Procedures for identifying and evaluating workplace hazards, including scheduled periodic inspections to identify unsafe conditions and work practices.
  • Procedures to investigate occupational injury or occupational illness.
  • Methods and/or procedures for correcting unsafe or unhealthy conditions, work practices, and work procedures in a timely manner based on the severity of the hazard.
  • Training and instruction.

Employers with fewer than ten employees can communicate and instruct employees orally in general safe work practices with specific instructions with respect to hazards unique to the employees' job assignments. 

Establish and maintain training and testing programs that verify and document an employee's achievement of skills.

The purpose behind a documented training and testing program is to ensure all employees receive the same safety information and that their achievement of skills is verified before proceeding with any given task. A training and testing program should be given:

  • To all new employees;
  • To all employees given new job assignments for which training has not previously been received;
  • Whenever new substances, processes, procedures, or equipment are introduced to the workplace and represent a new hazard;
  • Whenever the employer is made aware of a new or previously unrecognized hazard; and
  • For supervisors to familiarize themselves with the safety and health hazards to which employees under their immediate direction and control may be exposed

Source: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/


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