Accident Advisory: Worker fell off barge and into river

Ref No: 220719 (1)

UEN: S97SS0046G


Dear Valued ASPRI Members,


Accident Advisory: Worker fell off barge and into river

18 July 2019, Ref: 1920030
Ref: 1920022 WSH Alert Accident Notification dated 28 June 2019
On 21 June around 12:20pm, the body of a worker was found in a river. He was pronounced dead at the scene by attending paramedics. The worker was employed as a lorry driver and delivery man tasked to deliver supplies to an offshore location. As part of his job, the worker had driven and parked his lorry onto a barge which would then be moved to the offshore location by a tug-boat. While the worker was alighting from the driver’s cabin of his lorry, he tripped over a low railing at the edge of the barge and fell into the river.
                                         Figure 1: Overview of the accident


For work involving sea-transport services or near a body of water, the risk of drowning is a foreseeable risk that must be addressed. Persons in control of workplaces that present a drowning hazard should consider the following control measures to prevent similar accidents:
Safe work environment

• Ensure that there is a safe means for access and egress when driving or
walking from shore-to-barge or barge-to-shore, and while on the barge. This can
be achieved, for example, through the provision of a properly-designed jetty
with gangway for vehicles and designated walkways for passengers.
• As part of workplace housekeeping, check all access routes on a regular basis to
confirm that the gangway and walkways are in good condition and safe for use.
Any visible contamination (e.g. oil, mud) ought to be removed as soon as possible
as these can lead to slip and fall incidents. This is particularly dangerous if the fall
occurs when one is situated next to a water body.
• Remove tripping hazards where possible or, at minimum, make them clearly
visible by marking them in bright colours and installing hazard signs near the
potential trip location.

• Park vehicles a safe distance away from the edge of the barge. Barge owners/
operators should consider painting parking lines on the surface of the barge to
guide vehicles to a safe parking position with sufficient space for safe
mounting/dismounting of vehicle.
• For work done at night, ensure adequate general and task lighting at specific
work areas. This is especially important for works carried out during hours of
darknes and at times of reduced visibility.
Safe mounting/dismounting of vehicle

• When getting on or off a vehicle, maintain three points of contact with the
vehicle. That means one hand and two feet or two hands and one foot – at any
time. Anything less will result in the risk of a fall.
                                         Figure 2: Maintaining three-point contact
with vehicle. (Photo source: CWT Limited
and Republic Polytechnic)
• Further, when mounting/dismounting a vehicle, advise workers to:
     – mount or dismount only when vehicle is stationary
– always face-in towards the vehicle
– avoid wearing loose or torn clothing that can catch onto the vehicle
– take extra care in wet or other dangerous weather conditions
– break three-point-contact only when touching the ground or stable surface
Personal protection

• Check that workers are properly attired with the necessary personal
protective equipment (e.g. inflatable life vest with reflective strips, anti-slip
footwear) before allowing work to be carried out near a body of water.
Worker training and communication

• Always ascertain workers’ ability to swim before deployment for work near
or on a body of water. In cases where there is no effective barrier (e.g. guard
railing) to prevent workers from falling into the water, the issuance and proper
use of life vests is particularly important in addition to the ability to swim.
The ability to swim is an additional measure that will help to reduce the risk of
drowning should workers fall into the water.
• Ensure workers undergo adequate safety and health training in relation to their
specific roles and responsibilities, and that they are aware of the hazards
associated with the work activity and specific work environment.
• Conduct daily toolbox meetings prior to work commencement and shift
handover. Such meetings provide the opportunity for all relevant information
and instruction concerning safety and health to be communicated.
Worker supervision

• Closely supervise all workers who are new to the work activity or work
environment until they are fully aware of the site-specific risks and are
competent for the assigned task.
Emergency response

• Equip the barge with life-saving equipment (e.g. life buoy with rope) for use in
the event of an emergency. Similarly, mount life-saving equipment at easily
accessible locations along the shore where the barge is berthed.
Worker well-being

• Advise workers to report to their supervisor if they are on medication, feeling
unwell or experiencing severe fatigue.

Risk Assessment

Conduct a thorough Risk Assessment (RA) for all activities near a body of water so as to control any foreseeable risk that may arise during the course of work. The RA should cover, but not limited to, the following areas:
• Slip, trip and fall hazards along the access route for workers to get to or from
their designated work location(s).
• Falling hazard while getting on or off a vehicle, sea transport vessel and when
crossing between vessels.
• The need for workers to be able to swim prior to work deployment and the
possibility of a worker drowning should he/she fall into the water especially if
the worker is unable to swim.

• Worker health condition (e.g. fitness to work, pre-existing health condition, use
of medication) and well-being (e.g. proper rest area with sufficient rest to
avoid fatigue).
• Rescue plan in the event of an emergency.

Further Information

1. Workplace Safety and Health Act
2. Workplace Safety and Health (Risk Management) Regulations
3. Workplace Safety and Health (General Provisions) Regulations
4. Code of Practice on Workplace Safety and Health Risk Management
5. SS 513: 2013 Specification for Personal Protective Equipment – Footwear – Part 1: Safety Footwear
6. SS 531: 2008 (2014) Code of Practice for Lighting of Work Places – Part 3:
Lighting Requirements for Safety and Security of Outdoor Work Places
7. WSH Guidelines on Workplace Housekeeping
8. WSH Guidelines on Fatigue Management
9. WSH Council’s Toolbox Meeting Kit
10. Introduction to Total Workplace Safety and Health
* Information on the accident is based on preliminary investigations by the Ministry of Manpower as at
09 July 2019. This may be subject to change as investigations are still on-going. Please also note that the recommendations provided here are not exhaustive and they are meant to enhance workplace safety and health so that a recurrence may be prevented. The information and recommendations provided are not to be construed as implying any liability on any party nor should it be taken to encapsulate all the responsibilities and obligations under the law.