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Storage Tank Coatings in Confined Spaces

To preserve a water distribution storage facility in working order (a water tank), it is necessary to apply an interior coating. The application of the storage tank coating is a serious task and optimum coordination and safety equipment are required to effectively complete the task.

Because water distribution system operators are required to perform work in tanks, channels, manholes, and other confined spaces, there should be specific, written, understandable operating procedures that are adhered to in order to prevent injury. Training should be provided. Note: different agencies and organizations have different procedures and all procedures must be confirmed with the appropriate regulatory safety agency.



A confined space requires a permit for entry, because of a variety of possible factors. The space may be large enough to perform work, but it may have limited or restricted means of entry and exit, it may not be designed for continuous occupancy, or it might be home to a hazardous atmosphere, contain a material that could be of harm, or has a shape that could cause someone to be trapped or suffocated. In general, if you need to duck or crawl into a space, it is likely classified as a confined space.

Confined spaces can present a serious hazard for those who are untrained. Safety procedures must be adhered to, including the following:

  • The atmosphere must be tested for toxic and explosive gases and oxygen deficiency or enrichment; the testing devices should have an alarm that can be activated in an unsafe atmosphere
  • Adequate ventilation should be provided, ESPECIALLY when painting or applying a storage tank coating; storage tank coatings are often applied in confined spaces and must have adequate ventilation for the recommended curing time
  • All operators must wear the appropriate safety gear/mask/harness
  • There must be one observer present to stand at the storage tank entrance and observe the actions of all people in the tank, with an additional person readily available to help the observer in any rescue operations

Because storage tank coatings are applied to water distribution systems with regularity, it is important to understand all safety aspects of working in a confined space. Safety should always be top of mind, and all safety training material and notices should be fully read and understood.  A competent person should be able to work safely and efficiently to effectively apply a storage tank coating within a water distribution system.