Father, Sons and Worker Knocked Out by Tank Fumes “Herald Sun” November 28 2013

“A father and son are fighting for life after becoming trapped in a farm tank in Victoria’s east.”

“Simon Coster, 48, entered the tank to clean it with ammonia and was overwhelmed by toxic fumes.   His son Tim then entered the tank to save him and was also overcome.   A worker and Mr. Coster’s other son Ash then entered in a rescue attempt before themselves becoming overwhelmed by the fumes. “

It seems fermented corn starch syrup  which was in the tank caused a chemical reaction which generated toxic fumes.  The tank fumes probably included carbon dioxide which is denser than air, odourless and invisible, and would have dropped the oxygen concentrations to below levels at which people remain conscious.  Applying ammonia itself within a confined space could also constitute a significant risk of being overcome with fumes, depending upon the quantities being used.

This highlights the problems of working in a confined space.   This demonstrates the need for people on farms, which are workplaces, to apply the regulations which apply to Confined Spaces in managing the risks with tanks and silos.

Worksafe Victoria has a Compliance Code for Confined Spaces which if applied would have prevented this accident. This Code outlines a number of risk assessment and risk management actions to eliminate the risks. This accident could have resulted in four or more deaths as those attempting to rescue people affected also became affected within the confined space.

Worksafe Victoria Compliance Code Link


Worksafe Victoria advice on Confined Spaces.


ASAFE OH&S Workplace Health & Safety Training Confined Space Entry course.


Pinnacle Safety and Training for Confined Space Entry 1 day training course.


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