Risk Perceptions and Barriers to Protective Behavior Use Among Chemical Tank Cleaners

An Exploratory Study
Chemical tank cleaners' occupational diseases and injuries are largely unknown due to a lack of monitoring and limited research. Their potential exposure to highly corrosive chemicals—including sodium hypochlorite, sodium hydroxide, and ferric chloride—suggests that tank cleaners represent an at-risk occupational group. This pilot study explored tank cleaners' risk perceptions and barriers to using personal protective equipment and other protective behaviors in their workplace. Data sources included a survey (n = 29) and interviews (n = 9) with sodium hypochlorite tank cleaners in the United States. Although sodium hypochlorite may become reactive under high temperatures, 12 questionnaire respondents indicated not being concerned about high temperatures within the tank, and 15 were not concerned about exposure via ingestion. Analyses of survey and interview results provide evidence of inadequate training among tank cleaners, their lack of understanding of basic chemical properties and routes of exposure, and limited access to and an incomplete understanding of how to properly use personal protective equipment, particularly respiratory protection. These findings can inform researchers, educators, and safety engineers in developing future studies, interventions, and training to improve tank cleaners' health and safety.

Source: Persaud, E. et LePrevost, C. (2018). The Journal of Primary Prevention.

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