Common Causes of Tank Overfill Incidents and How to Prevent Them

May 1, 2023

What is a tank overfill?

A tank overfill is an incident where the liquid or material being stored in a tank exceeds the tank’s capacity, causing it to spill out of the tank or overflow. Tank overfills can occur in a variety of situations, such as during the filling process, due to operator error, equipment failure, or other factors. Tank overfills can result in environmental damage, safety hazards, and economic losses, as well as damage to the tank and its associated equipment. To prevent tank overfills, it is important to follow proper procedures, use reliable equipment, and maintain clear communication among all stakeholders involved in the tank filling and maintenance process.

It’s reasonable to be concerned about tank overfills due to the high frequency of tank spills involving hazardous materials daily, according to environmental reports. The substances stored in tanks may be dangerous, flammable, explosive, and reactive with each other. In case of a spill, it may affect the drinking water or result in an explosion, leading to injuries, property damage, environmental problems, and evacuation of nearby communities. The cost of such incidents can amount to thousands, millions, or even billions of dollars, and previous accidents have demonstrated that they can jeopardize a company’s survival.

As a result, regulations and permits are becoming stricter, with more severe consequences. It’s challenging for industries to comply with these changing expectations since approaches that were deemed acceptable in the past may not meet current standards. This article outlines some common vectors of tank overfill risk, as well as practical approaches to tank overfill prevention.

Common Causes of Tank Overfill Incidents and How to Prevent Them »

Operator Errors

Operator error is the leading cause of tank overfill incidents. This can occur due to various reasons such as inadequate training, lack of experience, or carelessness. It can include misreading tank gauges, failing to monitor the tank properly during filling, or misinterpreting the alarm signals. In addition, operators may become distracted or fatigued, leading to errors in judgment. Other factors that can contribute to operator error include inadequate staffing levels, high turnover rates, or poor communication among team members. It’s crucial to address these issues through regular training, clear procedures, and effective communication to reduce the risk of operator error and prevent tank overfill incidents.

Equipment Failure

Equipment failure is another significant factor that can contribute to tank overfill incidents. Malfunctioning sensors or control systems can lead to inaccurate readings and improper control of the filling process, resulting in an overfill. Poor maintenance or lack of inspection can increase the likelihood of equipment failure, such as damaged or worn-out components, which can fail unexpectedly during operation. It’s essential to conduct regular maintenance and inspections to identify and address any issues with the equipment promptly. This can include repairing or replacing faulty components, ensuring proper calibration of sensors, and updating control systems as needed to prevent equipment failure and reduce the risk of tank overfills.

Communication Breakdown

A breakdown in communication among operators, maintenance personnel, and other stakeholders can also contribute to tank overfill incidents. Failure to convey critical information such as changes in tank equipment or procedures can result in mistakes during the filling process. Misunderstandings or miscommunications between team members can also lead to confusion or errors, particularly in high-pressure situations. To prevent communication breakdowns, it’s crucial to establish clear communication channels and protocols for sharing information. This can include regular meetings, documentation of changes or procedures, and implementing a communication system that ensures everyone involved in the tank filling and maintenance process is informed of any critical updates or changes. By prioritising effective communication, the risk of miscommunication and tank overfill incidents can be significantly reduced.

Improper Tank Installation and Design

Improper tank design is yet another factor that can contribute to overfill incidents. Tanks that are poorly designed or not appropriate for their intended use may lead to overfills or other safety hazards. For instance, a tank that cannot support the intended flow rate may be prone to overfill, causing spills or other safety incidents.

Tanks that lack proper venting can cause pressure build-up during filling, which can lead to overflows or even deformation and tank rupture. To prevent these incidents, it’s crucial to ensure that tanks are properly designed and appropriate for their intended use. This can include conducting a thorough risk assessment before selecting a tank and ensuring that it meets all relevant safety standards and regulations. Additionally, regular inspections and maintenance can help identify any design flaws or issues that may lead to overfills, allowing for timely intervention and prevention of incidents.

Banlaw strongly recommends the integration of appropriate tank overfill protection kits on all fluid storage tanks as an additional layer of protection.

Common Causes of Tank Overfill Incidents and How to Prevent Them »

Tank Overfill Protection

To prevent tank, overfill incidents, it is important to implement the following measures:

  • Develop and follow proper procedures for filling and monitoring tanks, including regular training for operators and maintenance personnel.
  • Use reliable equipment, including breathers, gauges, sensors, and overfill protection systems, and ensure they are properly maintained and inspected.
  • Foster clear communication between all stakeholders involved in tank filling and maintenance, including operators, maintenance personnel, and management.
  • Ensure that tanks are designed and maintained in accordance with industry standards and best practices, including proper venting, monitoring, and safety features.

By implementing these measures, tank overfill incidents can be prevented, minimizing the risk of environmental damage, injury, and loss of life.

Fuel Management and Over tank fill Protection

Take action to improve your bulk tank gauging, fuel management, and resource management safety solutions by implementing Banlaw’s FuelTrack and ResTrack Fuel/Asset Management Systems. These innovative solutions are designed to prevent tank overfill incidents and provide comprehensive facility safety capabilities.

With Banlaw’s systems, you can manage your tanks effectively, reduce the risk of equipment failure, improve communication between stakeholders, and ensure that your tanks are appropriately designed for their intended use. Don’t wait until an incident occurs – contact Banlaw today to learn more about how our solutions can help you enhance safety and efficiency in your facility.