Confined spaces work dangers underestimated


By Safety Solutions Staff
Tuesday, 04 July, 2017


An electrical company and a farming partnership have both been fined by the court for an incident in New Zealand where an electrician was engulfed in a grain silo and had to be dug out and resuscitated.

Poor risk management, emergency planning and training for confined spaces work put an electrician’s life in danger and threatened the safety of 14 others who went to his aid in a grain silo incident, said WorkSafe New Zealand Chief Inspector Keith Stewart.

The electrical company Austin Bros (1980) and the farming partnership Mark and Sonia Dillon appeared in the Gore District Court for sentencing on 14 June 2017 and in a reserved decision, the court has fined the company and the partnership for their roles in the incident.

In March 2016 two electricians were wiring up motors in a newly commissioned grain silo on the Dillon’s property. The electricians were working on top of the grain without harnesses and with no power isolation. A truck arrived to empty the silo and the grain outfeed auger was turned on.

“The dangers of working on grain are well known. Moving grain acts like quicksand and can bury a person in seconds. Even if grain appears to be solid, it is not a safe surface for workers,” said Stewart.

One electrician was engulfed in the grain and had to be dug out and resuscitated. Four rescuers required hospital treatment for breathing difficulties.

“The electricians should have been wearing harnesses; the truck driver should have been told they were in the silo. It was good luck rather than good management that meant no-one died in this incident,” Stewart said.

WorkSafe New Zealand has a fact sheet on its website with more information about planning confined spaces work.

Originally published here.

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