In Industry

New South Wales Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean

Workers Warned Of Confined Space Killers

Victor P Taffa

Bosses are being urged 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 SafeWork NSW is investigating a number of fatalities in 2018 involving working in confined spaces.

“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.” Minister Kean said.

“This can quickly become dangerous if oxygen levels deplete and air quality is polluted by chemicals or other fumes.”

SafeWork’s ongoing investigations include:

  • In May, a 28-year-old man and a 35-year-old man died in an incident at a paper mill at Ettamogah. Initial inquiries indicate 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 with initial inquiries indicating the man was repairing a damaged water tank on the property when he was overcome by fumes and was unable to be revived.

Minister 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.” Minister 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;
  • Ensuring safety equipment is at hand, including a safety harness, lifting equipment, and a lifeline rope.

Since 2011, NSW has exceeded its targets for workplace safety. But one workplace fatality is too many and the NSW Government will continue to put workers safety first.



NSW               New South Wales


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