Gas, lungs, ladders, fruit picking and concrete pumping – latest workplace incidents

The media on 11 March 2010 was reporting the discovery of a the body of a hotel worker in  a beer cellar of a Victorian hotel.  WorkSafe Victoria is investigating the possibility of carbon dioxide.

As with so  many cases of confined spaces, a second man was lucky to be alive after venturing into the cellar to check on the hotel worker.  The police report suggested that the second man was making a delivery to the hotel.

At such an early stage in the investigation and with so little detail,it is hard to say more than what WorkSafe’s Stan Krpan said in a media release this afternoon:

“With or without a gas leak or chemical exposure, limited means of entry and exit, poor air circulation, and working in confined spaces, is risky. Employers need to understand these risks and develop appropriate controls.

This is an issue across industry, not just hotels. For example, storerooms in the retail industry; silos and water tanks for agriculture workers; warehousing in manufacturing; and even construction sites and drains.”

Ladders, Elevated Work Platforms and Falls

Earlier in the week Melbourne was hit by a severe storm and the Ambulance Service has responded to many ladder-related injuries at domestic sites but construction sites can still generate workplace injuries from falls from height.

On 10 March a builder fell at a South Melbourne construction site puncturing a lung.  According to a media release from Ambulance Victoria:

‘The man was working on the roof and somehow fell, landing on a ladder which had also toppled onto the ground… He had significant pain in his chest and was having trouble breathing.

‘We quickly determined he had a collapsed lung and possible rib fractures. A procedure was performed where a large needle was inserted into his chest to clear any trapped air and reinflate his lung.”

Earlier in March the Ambulance Service responded to an incident where a man had been pinched under the tilting cabin of his truck in a mechanics workshop.  This type of hazard is well-established and always looks to be a hazardous position.  On 4 March, one worker was seriously hurt and cared for by his colleagues who were providing first aid.  The Ambulance’s media report says

“The cabin was tilted forward allowing the man to work on the truck when it fell just before midday.  Intensive care paramedic David Kervin says the man was being cared for by colleagues when paramedics arrived.

‘They were providing first aid to the man aged in his 30’s who suffered abdominal injuries and bruising,’ Mr Kervin said.  ‘They were quite anxious and concerned about their colleague. The man is incredibly lucky not to have more serious injuries as it was estimated the cabin of the truck weighs about a tonne.”

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland reported on the $A10,000 penalty placed on one employer whose worker

“…was injured when an elevated platform rolled over on uneven terrain [resulting in] a ruptured aorta and fractured pelvis and shoulder …”

The 9 March 2010 media release states:

“The platform’s self-levelling device had not been activated and the 61-year-old fruit picker had not been properly trained in the machine’s operation.

Adequate risk assessment and appropriate control measures had also not been carried out before the incident, which occurred on 25 August, 2008.”

Concrete Pumping Inquest

Whilst still in Queensland, no firm date has been set for the inquest into the death of Gregory Clifford Paterson who died at a construction site in Proserpine on 4 June 2007.  According to the Coroners Court listings, the inquest will

“Investigate the circumstances of the death,

  • the medical cause of death,
  • the surrounding circumstances,
  • the adequacy of management of hazards associated with concrete pumping (in particular, hose whip),
  • the adequacy of management of hazards associated with the steel work,
  • the adequacy of oversight of safety management on site by the principal contractor,
  • the adequacy of the investigation and analysis of the incident by Workplace Health and Safety,
  • the opportunity for recommendations that might reduce the risk of any recurrence.” [bullet points added]

The number of matters to be addressed in this inquest  makes it seem likely to be an important one to follow for Australian safety professionals.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia

2 thoughts on “Gas, lungs, ladders, fruit picking and concrete pumping – latest workplace incidents”

  1. i reported an unsafe work site situation to work-safe sa by phone from the site & demanded that an inspector attend imediately, ( i still have the photo-graphic evidence to prove my point, ) site forman & other workers on site working inside & under the swing off an excavator, with-out wearing a hard hat or appropriate safety dress. the work-safe inspector rang the head office of the company concerned in adelaide, & accepted their verbal assurance that although 300 k,s away from the site that all work was being carried out with all necasery legal work-site safety regulations in force. work-safe inspectors accepted the companies word via telephone enquiry against the photo graphic evidence i provided. it makes one wonder why bother trying to have a posible accident prevented doesn,t it.

  2. Here we go again. There are many past instances of workers being overcome by fumes or gases in a myriad of situations, so there is no reason any right thinking employer would not have or more specifically should not have incorporated this type of hazard into the business OH&S risk assessment and taken appropriate action to install readily available monitors and alarms. Oops! I forgot, we don\’t have a great record of having formal risk and hazard assessments undertaken in small, medium enterprises and \”golly gosh\”, where are our enforcement people and convictions with very large penalties for transgressors.

    I am sounding like a broken record. What is so hard about fixing things at the coal face. If you employ a person and they die as a result of your lack of compliance with legislation that has been in place for over a decade, then you deserve to be treated the same as a driver who kills someone while breaking the law and I think that usually warrants a criminal conviction and time in goal, along with massive fines. If it destroys the business, so what, it may just save another employee from a similar fate and will certainly focus business on its responsibility to its workforce.

    I am no left wing \”Bolshie\”. what I am, is an individual who has considerable experience in business and a very clear understanding of the thinking of the greater majority of private enterprise. Any workplace injury is a cost to the community let alone the injured and the employer and I object most strenuously to having to pay any of my hard earned money for idiots to waste, all because enacted legislation is not being policed. We have had the \”polly speak\” in South Australia banging on about getting tough on crime, what about the criminal inaction of employers who do not comply with the South Australian Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986 (24 years to comply chaps) Thousands of workers are injured every year and they can fool around with the stats as much as they like, but it will not change a thing and shows the bureaucracy are fully at it to try and camouflage the real story and so it goes on.

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