By Andrew Starke

WorkSafe Victoria has directed the Royal Mail Hotel at Birregurra near Colac to install a cellar alarm system to warn workers of carbon dioxide leaks before they enter.

The improvement notice requiring the hotel to install the alarm was issued after last week’s death of a 54-year-old man who was helping with the delivery of beer kegs to the cellar.

WorkSafe is investigating the fatality, which is thought to have been caused by a leak from a carbon dioxide gas cylinder in the cellar.

Inspectors prohibited entry to the hotel’s cellar until it was deemed safe.

Cylinders storing carbon dioxide and nitrogen are used to carbonate beer and soft drinks, but they 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 alarm system will alert people to the presence of a gas leak and warn them not to enter the area.

“Carbon dioxide and nitrogen are both asphyxiants. If cylinders containing these gases are stored in a semi-confined or enclosed environment like a cellar, accidental leakage is always a potential risk – no matter how well they are maintained,” said WorkSafe’s acting executive director for health and safety, Stan Krpan.

“Carbon dioxide gas and low oxygen monitoring and alarm systems are the best way to prevent walking into a potential death trap.”

For workplaces using both nitrogen and carbon dioxide systems, WorkSafe recommends a dual carbon dioxide and oxygen monitoring and alarm system.

For those only using carbon dioxide, a carbon dioxide monitoring and alarm system is needed.

This is a mandatory expectation unless the employer can provide a risk assessment that indicates otherwise.

“Alarm systems and the equipment itself need to be closely maintained and tested regularly,” said Krpan. “Staff need to be trained so they know what to do if the alarm goes off.

“This isn’t just an issue for local pubs – small and large organisations across industry have a responsibility to make sure workers are safe.”

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The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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