More than 20 people have been hospitalised following a gas leak at a Tasmanian salmon processing factory.
The incident occurred at Tassal’s Strathblane facility near Dover in southern Tasmania, with staff evacuating the premises at approximately 11:30 a.m. on May 30.
An initial assessment by the Tasmania Fire Service found the gas leak was likely caused by carbon monoxide from the operations of forklifts inside the processing facility.
Robert Flanagan from the Australian Workers Union told ABC Radio Hobart said the forklift in question was not “fit for purpose.”
“We don’t understand how that could’ve happened, and we have been in discussions with the company yesterday [May 30] afternoon regarding the matter, through into the evening.”
Twenty people were taken to the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH) for assessment, with six remaining overnight in a stable condition after having suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.
“On arrival [the crews] found that people had evacuated the building and there were some people that presented there with some respiratory illness and some people that had been vomiting,” Acting District Officer Barry Bones said, reported the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
“A few people started to present with more illness, and that’s a classic way this gas affects people.
“Most people were treated by Tasmania Ambulance as a precautionary measure. It’s just to make sure that people don’t go downhill.”
According to the Tasmania government’s Consumer, Building and Occupational Services (CBOS) website: “Carbon monoxide is generally not produced in harmful concentrations when fuels burn properly. But faulty or poorly maintained appliances may produce carbon monoxide.”
Some symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, nausea, dizziness, breathlessness, collapsing, and losing consciousness.
WorkSafe Tasmania said it is investigating the incident.
Health Minister Jeremy Rockliff thanked emergency services who provided care to employees requiring medical attention.
“I’d like to acknowledge the Hobart Private Hospital for working so quickly to activate plans for making the emergency room available to cater for the extra patient volume as a result of this incident,” Rockliff said.
In a statement, Tassal said it has since been given clearance by authorities to recommence operations.
AAP contributed to this report.