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UpdatesApr 19, 2022

Small spaces, big risks

Working in confined spaces remains a potentially very dangerous activity, as evidenced by a recent prosecution in Victoria.

While working in a confined space, a worker employed by Eco Waste Services was crushed from falling bricks in a confined space. He was carrying out brick pull-down work in a 1.2-metre gap between a brick wall and a Colorbond fence.

The worker attempted to push through the fence behind him, but the bricks landed on him. As a result, he sustained serious injuries.

The investigation by the safety regulator established that there was no safe work method statement for the high-risk work to take into account the dangers posed by working in a confined space. In sentencing the company, the Court considered the need to deter others given that work in confined spaces carries inherent risks, including the potential for wall collapses, which may kill workers.

The risk

A confined space is any enclosed structure that has limited access and, due to confinement, may carry high risks for workers who work within them, such as:

The controls

If your workers work in confined spaces, there are many must dos set out in the health and safety regulations for your organisation to follow. For example, in NSW and other harmonised jurisdictions, Part 4.3 of the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2017 provides a number of requirements you must adhere to if work is going to be undertaken in a confined space:

These control measures apply across all industries where confined spaces exist, such as tanks, pits, pipes, ducts and flues.

What should you do?

You must identify and mark clearly if there are any confined spaces in your workplace. Review your current procedures around confined spaces and make sure any work undertaken meets the above requirements. Ensure you train any workers involved in confined space work in those procedures and verify their competency. If your business is more likely to be engaging contractors to undertake confined space work, ensure that you check the contractors have completed your confined space training and only adequately trained workers enter the space.

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