SafeWork SA

You are here

Go to top of page

Wine tank operation

Safety Alert
1 March 2011

While attempting to retrieve an item of plant from a wine storage tank being emptied, a worker was temporarily asphyxiated.

The worker opened the bottom tank door to inspect the wine level when the tank was near empty. As the door was opened a circlip securing the door to the hinging mechanism dislodged, causing the door to fall into the tank.

Another worker attempted to retrieve the door by leaning into the tank and in the process was overcome by carbon dioxide escaping from it.

Wine tanks are often filled with inert gases, such as carbon dioxide, that act as an oxygen barrier to prevent wine oxidation. Even though the gas is inert, in high concentrations it will cause asphyxiation.

Possible causes

  • training of workers in safe work procedures may not have been adequate or suited to the task
  • appropriate information or warning signage may have been lacking.

Action required

  • Wine tanks and other storage tanks are classified as confined spaces, and must be identified as part of hazard identification and risk assessment.
  • a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must not direct a worker to enter a confined space to carry out work unless the PCBU has issued a confined space entry permit for the work.
  • Work health and safety laws provide specific requirements in relation to confined spaces, including a Code of Practice.
  • Hazard identification, risk assessment and control measures must be developed and implemented for the operation and entering of wine tanks.
  • The laws include requirements relating to risk assessment, training and personal protective equipment.
  • A safe work procedure must be developed for tasks associated with accessing or working on or in wine tanks.
  • Workers who are required to work on or in wine tanks must be provided with appropriate information, training and instruction on the hazards associated with their operation.