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Workplace fatalities bring confined spaces warning

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) is continuing its investigation into an incident at Sarina earlier this month when two men were found dead inside a tanker.

WHSQ Executive Director Julie Nielsen said inspectors believed 20 cubic metres of SuplaFlo (sugar cane by-product) with 4% urea mix was the last tanker load transported.

“While the final details will be in the report to the State Coroner, it is understood the two men were cleaning the residue in the tanks after unloading the day earlier,” Ms Nielsen said.

“WHSQ is reminding all workplaces of the dangers of working in confined spaces, as well as the obligations Queensland safety laws hold for employers and workers.”

Ms Nielsen said the specific requirements for confined spaces (Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011) apply only to those confined spaces that are entered by, intended or likely to be entered by, or could inadvertently be entered by any person.

A confined space includes any enclosed or partially enclosed space that is not designed or intended primarily to be occupied by a person and is at normal atmospheric pressure while a person is in the space and is a risk because of the atmosphere, contaminants or engulfment.

Examples of confined spaces, other than tankers, may include some types of excavations or trenches, drainage or sewerage pipes, and crawl spaces. Hazards include carbon monoxide build up by an operating internal combustion engine; atmosphere contaminants caused by disturbing decomposed organic material (letting out toxic substances), and the build-up and release of gases like ammonia, methane, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide.

Employers should ensure that people working in a confined space are safe by:

  • placing a stand-by-person outside the confined space to talk to anyone in the confined space and implement emergency procedures if required
  • providing personal protective equipment, and rescue, first-aid and fire suppression equipment
  • providing training
  • supplying safety harnesses and safety (or rescue) lines where there is a danger of falling while entering or leaving the confined space
  • erecting signs that show entry is only permitted after signing the entry permit
  • ensuring the area is well ventilated.

Further information

More information is at worksafe.qld.gov.au

Last updated
25 January 2018

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