Workplaces reminded of dangers of working in confined spaces following death of 2 workers

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) is investigating the death of two workers inside a tank on a trailer last month.

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,” said Ms. Nielsen.

“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.”

Since 2012, 18 workers’ compensation claims were accepted for workers injured due to chemical contact in a confined space. That same period, WHSQ has issued 45 improvement notices and 18 prohibition notices for contraventions and risks to health and safety associated with confined spaces.

“Working in a confined space can increase the risk of injury from noise, being overcome by fumes, gases or oxygen depletion, high or low temperatures, manual handling, and slips, trips and falls. It is vital to be aware of the dangers of working in confined spaces. 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 intended to be at normal atmospheric pressure while a person is in the space and is a risk because of the atmosphere, contaminants or engulfment,” WHSQ said in its incident alert.

Employers are urged to ensure that those working in confined spaces are kept safe by:

  • having compliant confined space signage in place
  • ensuring they are trained in confined space entry processes
  • esuring they are competent in performing the confined space entry task
  • completing a risk assessment
  • implementing a confined space entry permit system
  • ensuring any hazards and risks in the confined space are controlled and safely managed prior to entry of the confined space
  • 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
  • establishing a rescue, communication and continuous monitoring plan prior to entering a confined space
  • supplying safety harnesses and safety (or rescue) lines where there is a danger of falling while entering or leaving the confined space
  • ensuring the area is well ventilated

More information is available at

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