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January 2020

Risk of death from confined space incident

Worksafe Victoria v Industrial Lining Pty Limited (2017)

Facts

Industrial Lining Pty Limited (Company) installs protective linings inside plant and industrial equipment. Two employees were installing rubber lining inside a hopper when they were exposed to a harmful level of contaminate and were rendered unconscious. The employees had entered the hopper only 40 minutes after a hazardous adhesive substance was applied to the wall of the hopper.

Judgment

The Court heard that the Company had failed to identify the hopper as a confined space. Consequently, they did not provide a job safety analysis for the tasks being performed until after the risk had eventuated. The Court heard that the injured employees had only received on-the-job training while other employees had not received any information, instruction or training relating to the work being undertaken. The Court found there to be a real risk of death from the employees entering the confined space and so fined the Company $30,000.

Lessons

This is an example of the precautionary steps employers must take to assess the risks to which their workers are exposed in undertaking work in confined spaces. Employers who do not take reasonable steps to identify and control foreseeable risks will be liable for penalties.

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