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Concrete In Australia : June 2012
Concrete in Australia Vol 38 No 2 5 Safety alert for batching plant operations WorkCover NSW has issued a safety alert following an incident where a worker at a concrete batching plant has received serious and permanent injuries following an uncontrolled release of cement dust during a concrete batching operation. e worker was in the control room of a batching plant monitoring the flow of cement dust from a silo into a weigh hopper. When the hopper reached the desired weight the operator activated a lever to stop the flow; however, a pneumatic butterfly valve, located at the top of the "sock" connecting the silo to the hopper, did not close and the cement dust continued to flow. e rubber "sock" split soon after and cement dust discharged over the area including the batch plant control room. e worker initially left the control room as it began to fill with dust, but returned to make further attempts to activate the lever and stop the flow. As a result of inhaling cement dust, the worker has suffered significant loss of lung capacity, and has since been diagnosed with Chronic Obstruction Pulmonary Disease. e worker has been unfit for duty since the incident. e cause of the fault in the butterfly valve could not be determined. However, it is believed the following factors contributed to the severity of the incident: • ere was no system of work to deal with an uncontrolled discharge of cement dust. • ere were no dust masks available in the control room. • e design of the batching plant meant the control room was located almost immediately below the weigh hopper and was quickly engulfed by the discharging cement dust. • e design of the batching plant meant that workers were not able to operate the valve at the base of the silo from the ground. • e butterfly valve at the top of the "sock" was not the self-closing type, requiring pneumatic pressure to both open and close. WorkCover NSW is recommending that persons in control of a business or undertaking involved in batching, must so far as is reasonably practicable, ensure that workers and other persons are not exposed to hazards and risks arising from exposure to cement dust, and take action to eliminate or minimise the risk of the uncontrolled release of dust within their workplace. Duty holders and workers at batching plants should consider the following control measures: • Have emergency procedures in place to deal with unexpected release of cement dust. • If possible, locate control rooms a safe distance from any areas where loading, storage, conveying and mixing of cement dust and other concrete additives occur. • Use self-closing flow control valves (eg spring loaded). • If possible, incorporate manual activation or override controls that can be operated at ground level. In addition, duty holders and workers should consider the following practices when working with or near cement or other potentially hazardous dusts: • Have protective clothing available and wear masks where there is a risk of inhaling dust. • Clean the workplace regularly by vacuuming or wet sweeping. • Wear disposable or washable work clothes and shower if facilities are available. • Vacuum dust from work clothes and change into clean clothing before leaving the work site. • Participate in training, exposure monitoring and health screening and surveillance programs to monitor any adverse health effects caused by cement or other potentially hazardous dusts. Concrete Institute of Australia Office contact details National and NSW Branch Suite 401, Level 4, 53 Walker Street North Sydney, NSW 2060 PO Box 1227, North Sydney 2059 Phone: 02 9955 1744 Fax: 02 9966 1871 Email National: firstname.lastname@example.org NSW: email@example.com Queensland Branch Suite 2, Level 2, 485 Ipswich Road Annerley, Queensland 4103 Phone: 07 3892 6668 Fax: 07 3892 5655 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Victoria Branch 2nd Floor, 1 Hobson Street South Yarra, Victoria 3141 Phone: 03 9804 7834 Fax: 03 9827 6346 Email: email@example.com South Australia Branch PO Box 559 Marden, South Australia 5070 Phone: 08 8362 1922 Fax: 08 8362 1822 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Western Australia Branch 45 Ventnor Avenue West Perth, Western Australia 6005 Phone: 08 9389 4447 Fax: 08 9389 4451 Email: email@example.com Tasmania Branch 2 Davey Street Hobart, Tasmania 7000 Phone: 03 6221 3715 Fax: 03 6224 2325 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org