Confined spaces warning sparked by incident

Friday, 19 January, 2007

WorkSafe Vic has warned employers of the risks of workers being overcome by dangerous gases in confined spaces following a conviction and $40,000 fine for a Victorian timber treatment company.

Manufacturing and logistics director at WorkSafe, Trevor Martin said the dangers associated with working in confined spaces were well established.

"Work in confined spaces with poor ventilation has led to deaths and it's essential that appropriate controls and training are in place to manage these risks.

"In some cases people just "go to sleep' and don't wake up," he said.

Martin warned that these issues affect a range of industries, including manufacturing, construction, warehousing, agriculture (silos and water tanks), the water industry and even retail (refrigerated storerooms etc).

Last month, a Yarra Valley timber treatment company was convicted and fined $40,000 for failing to have proper procedures in place for welding in confined spaces.

While welding inside a tank at the firm's plant in March 2003, a man vomited, experienced dizziness and had difficulty breathing.

The investigation found:

  • Procedures dealing specifically with welding in the confined space of the tanks were not in place.
  • A hazard identification or risk assessment was not done in relation to welding in the tank.
  • There was only one ventilation point " the point of entry.
  • There was inadequate supervision to ensure safety procedures were followed.
  • There was no induction in relation to work to be done at the workplace.
  • The injured man was not wearing personal protective equipment.

Following the incident, procedures have been put in place at the plant to work in confined spaces.

Guidance material on safety in confined spaces can be found at

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