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News

HSE warns - confined spaces kill

HSE InfoLine : 29 July, 2004  (Company News)
Three employees working on a farm near Thetford were asphyxiated in a slurry tank. They were overcome by carbon dioxide; this, compounded by a lack of oxygen, resulted in the workers drowning in less than one metre of liquid. A fourth worker, who also entered the tank, was very fortunate to escape with his life.
The Health and Safety Executive has issued a warning to the manufacturing industry, following a recent triple fatality, that entering confined spaces is extremely dangerous, particularly waste and recycling companies.

Three employees working on a farm near Thetford were asphyxiated in a slurry tank. They were overcome by carbon dioxide; this, compounded by a lack of oxygen, resulted in the workers drowning in less than one metre of liquid. A fourth worker, who also entered the tank, was very fortunate to escape with his life.

The danger of asphyxiation from entering confined spaces is well known. A lack of oxygen, and in some instances the build up of hazardous gases such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide, can result in people being quickly overcome with little or no warning before they become unconscious.

Reflecting on the recent tragedy, James Barrett, Head of HSE's Manufacturing Sector, said:
'In the last four months alone, three people from manufacturing industries have died as a result of entering confined spaces. This latest incident highlights the risks common to all industries and everyone; employers, trade unions, and workers themselves, need to be alert to the dangers.'

He added:
'It is not as if the risks from confined spaces are new. Workers need to stop and think before they enter any confined space, even those with an open top. Toxic gases can build up or the space may contain little or no oxygen.

'It is no good managers implementing a safe system of work and assuming employees will follow it. Workers need to be carefully trained and supervised by a competent manager. Senior management must carry out regular checks to be sure the correct procedures are always followed. Anything less is just not good enough and people will continue to die'.
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