By Tex Enoch
In 1969, when I started working in the protective coatings industry, safety was an every man for himself endeavor. There were no rules. The saying, “It’s a jungle out there” was absolutely true.
Pennsbury Coatings, a small family-owned paint manufacturing company and the company I started working for when I left the service as a junior naval officer, specialized in manufacturing coatings for the water tank market. As a representative of Pennsbury, it was my job to assist owners and engineers in developing specifications for painting both new and existing water tanks. I was tasked with climbing and inspecting these structures to develop correct specifications but to also make sure the work being done was being done as specified.
The first tank I ever climbed was located in Hanover, PA. It was a 500,000 gallon elevated legged tank with the climbing ladder going up one of the legs. It was also 180 feet to the catwalk. I got about half way up and leaned back in the cage to rest my cramping forearms, when I looked up and realized how far I had yet to climb.
I then looked down – and FROZE! Ed Mazmer, the water manager at Hanover, was on the ground laughing at my dilemma. I was finally able to climb DOWN the tank. After regaining my breath and courage, I re-climbed the tank ladder, climbed over the railing and laid flat down on the catwalk floor. This was all done without any fall protection whatsoever. Today that would not be allowed.
Another example of how times have changed occurred during the repainting of a 10,000,000 gallon ground storage in 1972. The existing interior coating system on the tank consisted of two coats of Type I Red Lead. That system had to be completely removed. The contractor and crew sandblasted the interior to a #10 blast cleaned surface without the benefit of any air filtering equipment other than bandanas worn over their noses and mouths. Crew members were regularly being taken to the hospital to deal with lead poisoning. Again, that would be a criminal offense today.
OSHA, the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act have, no doubt, added costs to doing jobs like this. However, most of these additional costs are justified. In today’s water tank painting world, SAFETY FIRST is very real. Companies that have remained in this business have instilled a culture of safety and many have entire departments devoted to the safe completion of every job they undertake.
I am glad I have been a part of this industry long enough to see how important individual and job safety have become.
Founded in 1947, Induron manufactures high performance coatings that serve a range of industrial applications, including the wastewater, transmission and distribution and groundwater storage industries. Learn more about us at www.Induron.com.