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A WorkSafe New Zealand report into a fatal accident caused by a pressure tank explosion on a farm in 2019 has found that more awareness and education needs to be implemented when working with a pressure tank.

The fatal incident occurred on a New Zealand farm in late 2019 when a worker was replacing a pressure control switch in a water pump shed.

The investigation found that at some point during the replacement, the base of the pump’s pressure tank failed causing an explosion in the pump shed. As a result the worker sustained fatal injuries.

Following the incident, an investigation report was conducted by WorkSafe New Zealand. After extensive enquiries, investigators concluded that the damage to the pump house and the fatal injuries to the victim had been caused by the failure of the base of the water pumps’ pressure tank.

Investigators said that the age of the pressure tank was not able to be accurately determined due to advanced corrosion, but following discussions with the landowner it was determined that the tank had been in place for approximately 22 years.

The pressure tank was assessed after the incident, and was found to be in poor condition. 

A visual assessment of the external surface of the tank showed surface pitting to the top and significant corrosion to the rear surface of the tank consistent with having been in a continuously damp environment for a period of time. 

The tank was also fitted with a pressure filling valve at the top, used to pre-load the air pressure above the internal diaphragm and no other valves or inspection plates were fitted to the tank. 

As a result of the incident, WorkSafe New Zealand has requested a suite of testing be completed and has initiated technical test reporting to facilitate the creation of relevant Safety Alerts for release to affected industry groups including the agricultural, horticultural and industrial communities.

The Safety Alerts aim to provide information from health and safety authorities with details of recent incidents to alert relevant industries to hazards and unsafe practices.

WorkSafe New Zealand advised the Safety Alerts will be completed and released in weeks rather than months to ensure that the hazards and risks are recognised and mitigated where possible, and awareness is raised across the various industries that use pressure tanks.

The devastating accident and following report serves as a timely reminder for industries using pressure tanks to ensure that they are using best practices and following all safety guidelines for the health and safety of workers.

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