Worker's body found in sewage treatment facility

Date:Dec 02, 2011

The body of a 52-year-old sub-contractor has been located in a sewage treatment facility in Melbourne following an extensive search of the premises.

Initial reports indicate that the man was performing routine sampling of effluent at Melbourne Water's Eastern Treatment Plant near Dandenong on December 1 when he may have fallen into the containment pond.

No one saw the incident occur, although co-workers were concerned when he did not return samples to the on-site laboratory by the usual time of 08:45.

They immediately began a search routine to find the missing man, managing to find his hard hat and an array of his equipment near one of the sewage channels.

Authorities were alerted to the man's disappearance and members of the Police Search and Rescue squad joined in the desperate attempts to locate the man.

As part of the process, 1.5 million litres of sewage needed to be drained from a large containment tank before specialist divers could commence their operations.

Rescuers spent approximately eight hours inspecting through ducts, pipes, drains and channels for the man - at which point authorities began to have grave fears for his safety.

Speaking to reporters, sergeant Simon Brand from the Search and Rescue Squad asserted: "The likelihood for someone surviving for that time, in those conditions, is most unlikely."

Officials from WorkSafe Victoria attended the scene, along with police officers and members of the Country Fire Authority.

The lab technician's body was recovered from the facility once the draining process was complete.

Executive director of health and safety at WorkSafe Victoria Ian Forsythe said expressed his sadness over the unfortunate event and said it was a reminder that this time of year was traditionally a "pretty dangerous time at workplaces".

Forsythe asserted: "It's an absolute tragedy, not just for the people involved - for their families, for their friends and for their employers.

"The message we are wanting to get out to people is we are coming up to a very hectic time of year and people sit back, not cut corners and remind employers that the onus is on them to make sure that workplaces are safe."

In New South Wales, the official body that relates to employee safety is WorkCover, which fills a similar position to its Victorian counterpart.

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