An emergency training session deals with a confined spaces rescue.
An emergency training session deals with a confined spaces rescue. Contributed

Death in water tank sparks warning to bosses

THE death of a man repairing a water tank at Dyraaba last August is one of several tragedies in NSW last year that sparked a warning about the dangers of working in a confined space.

Bosses are being urged to do more to protect employees as SafeWork NSW investigates a number of fatalities in 2018 involving working in confined spaces.

Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said: "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".

"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 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.
  • 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.


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

For more information on working safely in a confined space, visit