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Workers warned of confined space killers

Posted by NSW Finance, Services & Innovation on 9 January 2019

Bosses are being urged to do more to protect employees who are working in confined spaces in 2019, following several tragedies last year. 

Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said SafeWork NSW is investigating a number of fatalities in 2018 involving working in confined spaces. 

"Small spaces like silos, chimneys, tunnels and tanks are not designed to be worked in regularly, but sometimes they need to be accessed for cleaning, maintenance or repairs," Mr Kean said. 

"This can quickly become dangerous if oxygen levels deplete and air quality is polluted by chemicals or other fumes."

SafeWork's ongoing investigations include: 

  • In May, a 28-year-old man and a 35-year-old man died in an incident in a paper mill at Ettamogah. Intital inquries indicate the men were working in the basement are of the mill when they were overcome by Hydrogen Sulphide gas and collapsed. 
  • In August, a 58-year-old man died on a rural property near Dyraaba with intial inquiries indicating the man was repairing a damaged water tank on the property when he was overcome by fumes and was unable to be revived. 

Mr Kean said SafeWork NSW recommends that, where possible, workers should stay outside confined spaces and design them so there is no need to enter. 

"When required to work in a confined space, workers should regularly clean the air space, keep it well ventilated, and have an emergency plan," Mr Kean said. 

Other things businesses must do include: 

  • Having a competent stand-by person outside for support if needed;
  • Conducting atmospheric testing before entering a confined space; and, 
  • Ensuring safety equipment is at hand, including a safety harness, lifting equipment, and a lifeline rope. 

Since 2011, NSW has exceeded its targets for workplace safety. But one workplace fatality is too many and the NSW Government will continue to put workers safety first. 

For more information on working safely in a confined space, click here.

Author: NSW Finance, Services & Innovation
Tags: Consumer Information

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