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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Welding on Cargo Tanks


Burned out hull of a tanker truck.

SAFETY NOTICE: Welding on Cargo Tanks

The USDOT/FMCSA is issuing this safety notice to remind all companies of the dangers associated with cleaning, repairing, testing, and inspecting cargo tanks.  These cargo tanks may contain hazardous materials, even if only in trace amounts.  FMCSA has been advised of an increase in the number of incidents related to working on cargo tanks.

Cargo Tank Incidents at Facilities*

Total number of incidents: 18

Fatalities from explosions: 3

Injuries from explosions: 10

Fatalities from inhaling fumes: 3

Injuries from inhaling fumes: 21

Buildings damaged or destroyed: 6

Cargo tanks damaged or destroyed: 18

Other vehicles damaged or destroyed: 6

Advanced preparation and particular safety protocols should be followed when working on this type of equipment.  Special attention needs to be given in determining what the cargo tank contains or last contained, and ensuring that the cargo tank has been sufficiently cleaned and purged of all hazardous materials before work is initiated.  This includes ensuring that void spaces between compartments and vapor recovery systems are thoroughly cleaned.  See 49 CFR Section 180.413(a)(2) and Section 177.854(g) and (h).

To reduce the possibility of an explosion or inhalation injury, it is required that employees who conduct inspections, tests, or repairs of cargo tanks receive proper hazardous materials training as required by 49 CFR Part 172 Subpart H (Sections 172.701-704).  This includes regular training to keep employees safe, especially if working in shale and oil operations.


* Data taken from news reports from January 2013 to November 2014

Last updated: Friday, January 16, 2015