In issuing a fine of over $1,000,000 NSW Judge has required the offending business to produce a resource to reminded all businesses to review their confined spaces compliance. The result is an animated video resource that highlights the risks of confined spaces and the serious consequences of failure to plan for breakdowns in the design of plant, and failure to plan for maintenance observation and spotting when operating that plant in a confined space.

NSW District Court Judge the paper mill to fund the production of the video along with paying the fine of $1,012,500 for the safety breaches that resulted in two deaths when a worker was working on the top of an indoor tank checking for a leak during maintenance and was overcome by pooling hydrogen sulphide gas, and two others were overcome by the same gas when checking on him.

The video resource, made with the input of SafeWork NSW, has drawn attention to the need for a focus on the total use, and potential risks of use, including disuse, restart and maintenance pause operations, of plant, when designing and installing it, to ensure it is safe and can be made safe, not just in normal operating conditions.

The video says that when filtrate is allowed to stagnate, as it was in the paper mill’s outdoor tank, lethal concentrations of hydrogen sulphide gas can occur within one day.

The employer failed to add biocides to the outdoor tank to inhibit the growth of microorganisms, it says.

Many work processes can generate hazardous gas, including agricultural work, wine and food production, sewerage treatment, and manufacturing using organic products like wood, the video says.

“A confined space can exist in any industry and is not just limited to inside a tank, vessel or pit,” it adds.

“It is recommended that businesses review their workplaces and operations to identify all potential confined spaces.”

Elisha Radwanowski BCom (HRM & IR)
Executive Manager for Employment and Training