Deadly danger of confined spaces

Working in confined spaces presents a number of hazards.
Date: Monday, 08 May 2017

The Department of Mines and Petroleum is reminding mine operators and workers of the dangers of working in confined spaces.

The safety reminder was prompted by an incident on a New South Wales farm that killed three family members earlier this year.

Acting Director Mines Safety Martin Ralph said it was important mine operators and workers understood the deadly hazards associated with working in confined spaces.

"While the New South Wales tragedy occurred on a farm, there are similar tasks and environments on mining operations," Mr Ralph said.

"Hydroblasting and tank cleaning, as well as activities such as welding, cutting or using solvent-based cleaning agents can occur in confined spaces on mine sites.

"Without the proper safety precautions, this can lead to potentially deadly atmospheric conditions."

Petrol or diesel powered tools such as high-pressure water cleaners, pumps, compressors and generators produce poisonous carbon monoxide gas.

"Carbon monoxide can rapidly accumulate, even in areas that appear to be well ventilated, and build up to dangerous or fatal concentrations within minutes," Mr Ralph said.

"That is why it is important the risks associated with working in a confined space are identified and addressed before work starts.

"Only trained and competent personnel are allowed to conduct and monitor work in a confined space."

The department has further guidance and information about working in confined spaces on its website.