Wallace Edgar Bryers was keen to learn about honey production, but his interest in apiary work led to his death.
- South Hobart man Wallace Bryers died of an anaphylactic reaction in 2018 while beekeeping
- The 61yo had removed the hood of his bee suit before he was stung
- A coroner has recommended that apiary businesses provide access to EpiPens
A coroner found the South Hobart man was with friends and working on bee hives on a Tasmanian farm before he was stung and died after suffering an anaphylactic shock.
Coroner Andrew McKee said Mr Bryers, 61, made friends with the owner of honey business Tasiliquid Gold at Hobart’s Farm Gate Market in 2011.
Mr Bryers was with the man, and two other members of his family on January 5, 2018.
Mr McKee said Mr Bryers had an interest in the production of honey and was smoking beehives, blowing boxes and putting boxes on the truck that day.
Mr McKee said Mr Bryers was wearing appropriate safety gear, but after the bee keeping tasks were complete, and before he got into the truck himself, Mr Bryers removed the hood attached to his bee suit and “adjusted his hair”.
He said the group was about 10-15 metres from the bee hives but bees were flying about.
“[One of the group] remembers Mr Bryers touching his hair like it had an insect in it,” Mr McKee wrote.
“[Another] remembers Mr Bryers saying he had bees in his suit and was being stung.”
Mr McKee said Mr Bryers was told to put his suit back on.
“Mr Bryers placed the hood back on and got into the truck. He then crushed the bees in his hood. The group kept their protective equipment on with the intention of driving down the road away from the hives before removing their protective clothing.
Mr McKee said one of the group called triple-0 about 1:15pm.
“Mr Bryers was dizzy and ‘wobbling about’. He banged into a fence and was holding the side mirror of the truck. Mr Bryers then fell to the ground,” Mr McKee said.
“He was described as groggy … Mr Bryers was groaning and unresponsive. He lost consciousness.”
Mr Bryers’ companions started CPR and continued until police arrived and took over. When paramedics arrived at 1:55pm, they were unable to resuscitate Mr Bryers at the scene and he was pronounced deceased.
Recommendation for EpiPens
Mr McKee said an investigation by WorkSafe Tasmania found that Tasiliquid Gold had fulfilled its duty of care to Mr Bryers by the provision of personal protective equipment and through instruction, direction and supervision during on-the-job training.
But Mr McKee said a number of improvements could be made to the company’s workplace safety policies and procedures.
“Of significance is the fact that TLG did not have an adrenaline or epinephrine injector — commonly referred to as an EpiPen — in the first aid kits in vehicles that would be used in the field when dealing with beehives,” he said.
“That situation has now been rectified and all first aid kits used by TLG now contain EpiPens.”
The coroner said he could not make a positive finding that giving Mr Bryers adrenaline would have prevented his death, but was satisfied that had Mr Bryers been administered adrenaline within the first 30 minutes after his anaphylactic reaction, his chances of survival would have increased.
Mr McKee recommended that, at a minimum, those who conduct apiary businesses, before exposing people to beehives:
- Ask them if they have a known allergy to bee venom
- Provide appropriate protective clothing
- Provide adequate training, including instruction not to remove protective equipment in the vicinity of hives or bees
- Have individuals on site qualified in first aid
- Make appropriate first aid kits, containing epi pens, available
- Ensure employees are trained in the administration of EpiPens
“In relation to individuals who have the care and control of live beehives on a smaller scale or as a hobby, I recommend they consider being trained in first aid and, in particular, the administration of EpiPens,” Mr McKee said.
“I further recommend that such individuals have EpiPens on hand.”
Tasmanian Beekeepers’ Association president Lindsay Bourke said the association also recommended all commercial beekeepers carried an epi pen. He said training had also improved since Mr Bryers’ death.
“We do have better training just in case this happens to somebody else. A new employee or even a farmer could come over to see us and they don’t realise how dangerous it can be to go up to a new beehive that’s been opened up,” Mr Bourke said.
He said commercial beekeepers were sometimes stung up to 50 times in a day.
“For the person that’s not used to getting bee stings … it can be quite dangerous.”
He said first aid training for apiarists should be mandated Australia-wide.