Vacuum Truck Safety and Training
The operation of vacuum trucks and vacuum equipment is inherently dangerous. The operator has to deal with many different and changing circumstances, positions, and demands. They typically work in hot, dusty, cramped environments or wet, cold, slippery areas for long hours. The personal protective gear they use is cumbersome and restricts their ease of movement. A hose that gets away from the operator can inflict serious injuries on the user. Think about some of the specific hazards they must deal with.
As a vacuum hose is loaded with material its weight can increase drastically. As the hose is being loaded, the material entrained in the vacuum stream can cause the hose to move or whip suddenly similar to water hammer in a liquid piping system. The weight and sudden flexing of the hose can tax a vacuum technician and for one who is not aware or fit, this may cause injury. Whether the vacuuming medium is air or water, the technician must be aware of these issues.
Electrical shock or an electrical spark produced during the vacuuming process can also pose a grave risk to technicians. The movement of material through a vacuum hose, especially in an air vacuuming media system and the subsequent static charge it creates, can cause physical pain to the technician. Besides physical discomfort there is the hazard of volatiles in the material being vacuumed. It is especially important that the technicians know the material being vacuumed. If the material being vacuumed is a volatile substance, the technician must be certain he is using the right type of equipment for that particular application.
It is therefore incumbent upon us as business owner, operators, and partners to fully train our technicians. When we think about training we may envision a hands-on session with the specific piece of equipment the technician will be operating. Of course that is essential. But have we done a good job of informing our workers about what piece of equipment is used in specific plant applications? Many times the plants we serve will specify the type of truck or system we are to bring in. However once a technician finishes their assigned job it is not uncommon for them to be asked to do another small project at the same plant. That job may be a spur of the moment decision and may not have been well thought out. Our techs may be put at risk as the equipment may not be the safest for that application. It is therefore imperative that we train our technician not only how to operate the specific types of vacuum equip but also in the selection of equipment types for various applications. This is a serious liability we all need to address.