NSW Government Warning on Dangers of Confined Spaces

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The NSW Government is urging employers 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 a number of fatalities in 2018 involving working in confined spaces were being investigated by SafeWork NSW.

“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 is investigating an incident in which a  28-year-old man and a 35-year-old man died at a paper mill in Ettamogah in May, with initial inquiries indicating the men were working in the basement area 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.  Initial inquiries indicate the man was repairing a damaged water tank on the property when he was overcome by fumes and was unable to be revived. SafeWork is investigating.

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.

For more information on working safely in a confined space, visit https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/hazards-a-z/confined-spaces

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