A Geelong company has been convicted and fined $80,000 following the death of a worker who was overcome by carbon dioxide gas in the cellar of a Birregurra hotel.
Hillcrest Private Nursing Home Pty Ltd, which operated the Royal Mail Hotel, was found guilty at the Geelong Magistrates’ Court to one offence of failing to provide a safe system of work under section 21(1)&(2)(a) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.
The charge related to an incident in March 2010, when a 54-year-old man collapsed and died while moving empty beer kegs which were connected to carbon dioxide cylinders in the hotel cellar.
WorkSafe’s investigation into the incident found a cylinder containing carbon dioxide had leaked resulting in a significant increase in the level of gas in the cellar when the man entered.
Following the incident, WorkSafe directed the Royal Mail Hotel to install a cellar alarm system to warn workers of carbon dioxide leaks before they enter.
Cylinders storing carbon dioxide and nitrogen – which are used to carbonate beer and soft drinks - can be dangerous if they develop leaks, particularly when stored in enclosed spaces like cellars and cool rooms. Leaks can also occur at other points in the system, for example pipe fittings.
An appropriate alarm system alerts people to the presence of a gas leak and warns them not to enter the area.
WorkSafe’s Regional Director, Adam Rogers, said it was a timely reminder of the risks of working in enclosed spaces.
“With or without a gas leak or chemical exposure, limited means of entry and exit, poor circulation, and working in these spaces, is dangerous,” he said.
“This isn’t just an issue for pubs and clubs – small and large organisations across industry have a responsibility to make sure workers are safe.
“It’s essential that appropriate controls and training are in place to manage these risks, because if they’re not, the risk of death or serious injury is high.”
For more information, view WorkSafe’s guidance, Cellar and cool rooms - Beverage gas leaks
Public enquiries: Call the WorkSafe Advisory Service on 1800 136 089 between 8:30am and 5pm Monday to Friday, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Advisory Service, PO Box 4306, Melbourne, 3001.