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It may not come as a surprise to you but office cleaning in Adelaide is not exactly what many people would immediately consider “dangerous” work.  As Managing Director, I have to think about it though because I’m responsible for the safety of all of my staff.  When you actually sit down and consider all the things that could go wrong, it becomes quickly evident that to the unvigilant, the world really is a dangerous place.

An unspeakable workplace health and safety tragedy happened on Thursday 28th June 2018 and reinforces why we should all take WHS seriously no matter where we are.

A father and his two sons died 8 weeks ago in a devastating tragedy that the community on the border of South Australia and New South Wales will be reeling from for years to come.  Whilst working in a confined space, all three were overcome by petrol fumes from a malfunctioning generator.  These deaths have deeply affected the community and particularly touched me.  It is a reminder of the dangers of the spaces we live and work in.  Reports have it the father went to check the generator located in a cellar in a shed because he could smell fumes down there.  His wife went to help him but she didn’t stick around because she couldn’t stand the petrol fumes.  The two sons have come down to help their Dad out but all three men eventually got overwhelmed by the fumes and collapsed in the cellar as well.  As you can imagine, Paramedics arrived to a tragic and confronting scene.  It is believed the ambos were able to see the three patients but were themselves overcome by the toxic fumes and were unable to get to the men until firefighters arrived with specialised equipment.

I was aware that similar situations had recently occurred in Gunning, NSW in February 2017 where a husband, his wife and their neighbour all died whilst cleaning out an empty water tank and tragically again in January 2018 when two brothers from Vella Transport in Sarina, QLD died whilst cleaning out a molasses tank.  Overcome by fumes, they all never stood a chance.   Cleaning was the common denominator in both of these cases and reinforces the importance of making sure we place Workplace Health and Safety at the top of our priorities.  These deaths occurred in tanks BUT tanks are just another adjective for “confined space.”  Ask yourself – how many “unventilated” or “poorly ventilated” confined spaces do I pass through on a  weekly basis?  Ask yourself – how many times do you come in contact with, or get close to a toxic gas?  You might be surprised at your findings.  You don’t necessarily need to breathe in a gas to be affected by it.

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Chemicals can enter your body through three routes of entry: (1) inhalation, (2) absorption and (3) ingestion.

Chemicals come in many different forms: Dust, fumes and gases, solvents, metals, acids and bases, alkalis, pesticides, etc.

It is so sad that this Broken Hill wife and mother has lost the three most precious people in her life.  It doesn’t make sense to me.  It never should have happened.  These boys deserved to grow old, enjoy long and productive lives and watch their grandchildren grow up.  Such a travesty that this won’t happen.

At Cinderellas, we are constantly reviewing and updating our workplace health and safety policies and procedures.  As a CM3 accredited commercial cleaning company, we need to be compliant in WHS 24/7.  It’s not easy maintaining this high level of WHS across all the commercial sites we clean in Adelaide but at work or at home, we need to be WHS conscious at all times.

We conduct regular toolbox meetings with our staff.  At every toolbox meeting we discuss examples of the hazards we “potentially” encounter in the different areas of commercial cleaning at Cinderellas.  We do all types of cleaning in Adelaide and some examples of the hazards we face in our cleaning business include:

  • Commercial Cleaning: Confined space hazard, chemicals
  • Window Cleaning: Working at heights
  • Office Cleaning: Trip hazards, electrical, security, lifting
  • Floor Scrubbing: Heavy machinery, slip hazard
  • Bolon Cleaning: Heavy machinery
  • Wash Room Hygiene: Bio hazard

These are just some examples but it shows you that cleaning can be dangerous and a lot of work goes into making sure we keep our clients and our staff and the general public safe whilst we are on the job.

In conclusion, let’s all make sure we spend some time thinking about how to work and play safer and make sure we come home to our family at the end of our shift.  Accidents happen and in the above cases they ended up with fatal consequences.  If you would like to donate to the family, Mr Harvey’s older sisters Lisa Doust and Melanie Vugich have set up a GoFundMe page:

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At the writing of this article, the GoFundMe campaign has raised $16,890.  $1890 over it’s target of $15,000.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to all the families that have been touched by these tragedies.


Author: Mark Ferdinands

Information for this article was gathered from the following sources: