Accident Advisory: Worker succumbed while carrying out painting works

Ref No.: 120319 (1)
UEN: S97SS0046G

Dear Valued ASPRI Members,

Accident Advisory: Worker succumbed while carrying out painting works


12 March 2018, Ref: 1819093


On 22 January 2019 around 5.30pm, two workers were using rope access equipment to paint the exterior of a building. Whilst at work, a passing vehicle snagged the tail-end of one of the ropes, causing the rope to snap. One of the workers fell and landed on the ground. The worker was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.
              Figure 1: Overview of the accident scene.


Persons in control of similar workplaces and work activities such as occupiers and employers are advised to consider the following risk control measures to prevent similar accidents:
Work planning
Pre-work assessment

• Review the means of access (e.g. scaffold/suspended scaffold, mobile elevated
   work platform, rope access) for the work activity and select the most suitable
and safest means of access for the task.
• Should the rope access method be selected, further assessment includes evaluating
the difficulty level of the task and risks involved, as well as assigning the work to
the rope access team with the relevant experience for the task.
Competent rope access team

A rope access team generally comprises the rope access worker(s)/operative(s), rope access supervisor, and rope access manager. Their competencies should include, but not limited to, the following:

Rope access worker/operative

• Select the appropriate rope access equipment to be used for the work activity.
• Conduct pre-use inspections of rope access equipment for defects. Only equipment
that is in good condition may be used.

• Carry out the rope access technique in accordance to the safe work procedure.

• Conduct basic equipment maintenance which includes cleaning and proper storage.

1. Workers/operatives must be physically fit for the task and not have fear of heights.
2. Retraining and reassessment is required for workers/operatives who are not
continuously engaged in rope access work. Periodic refresher training is
recommended for workers who are continuously engaged in such work.

Rope access supervisor

• Ensure competent worker(s)/operative(s) are assigned to the task and that
the appropriate rope access equipment are provided.

• Conduct on-site risk assessment and confirm risk controls measures are in place.

• Closely monitor the worksite for safe work conditions and the worker(s)/
operatives(s) for safe work practice.
• Interface with other trades/activities at the worksite to ensure minimal disruption
to the work activity involving rope access.
• Plan for an emergency response and initiate (or perform) rescue of rope access
worker/operative in the event of a workplace incident.
Rope access manager

• Define a safe system of work (e.g. pre-work risk assessment, development of
safe work procedure and fall prevention plan, permit-to-work system) for rope
access operations.

• Assess the suitability of the risk control measures for the work activity.

• Communicate the task requirements (including WSH requirements) to the rope
access supervisor and/or team members.
• Manage the overall execution of the work activity.
Safe rope access equipment

• Ensure rope access equipment used is in accordance with manufacturer’s
instructions and able to withstand any loads or force imposed on it, factoring in
additional safety margins.
• Ensure no part/component of the rope access equipment can be accidentally
removed or dislodged/unfastened from the working line or safety line
during the work activity (see Figure 2).

• Body harnesses should support the worker/operative comfortably in
the working position. It is recommended that new harnesses be subjected to a
suspension test in a safe place to ensure it can bear the weight of
the worker/operative and any load carried.
• Equipment should be placed on a preventive maintenance programme.
Periodic maintenance not exceeding 6 months and ad-hoc inspections will be
necessary especially for older equipment that has been used frequently.
              Figure 2: Example of rope access equipment with safety line and back-up rope grab.
On-site controls

• Ensure the rope access team has at least 2 members, including a supervisor.
• Provide the rope access team with means to communicate with one another
during the work activity.

• Cordon off the area below the rope access operation and deploy a sentry to
safeguard the area below the work activity. Put in place measures (e.g. by using
a clearly marked exclusion zone with physical barriers) to divert/manage
pedestrian and vehicular traffic as necessary.
• Check there is no incompatible work activity in the vicinity that may pose danger
to the rope access team during the work activity.
• Develop an emergency rescue plan for the specific worksite. Possible rescue
scenarios include worker/operative self-rescue, rescue by fellow workmates, or
rescue by a dedicated on-site emergency response team.
Safeguard against falling objects
To safeguard workers and the public who may be in the vicinity of the rope operation, measures that can be implemented include:

• Ensure rope access workers/operatives are using a tool attachment strap
(See Figure 2) and a tool bag/pouch for holding tools and materials while
working at height.
• Setting up a safety net or catch platform below the work zone to prevent
falling tools and/or falling materials from hitting someone on the ground level.
Worker well-being

• Encourage workers/operatives to inform their supervisor if they are feeling
unwell, under medication or experiencing fatigue.
• Provide adequate rest breaks to workers/operatives taking into account the
adverse effects of weather, working at altitude (e.g. high wind speeds) and
possibly difficult working positions.
• Ensure there is a sheltered rest area with ready access to cool drinking water.

Risk Assessment

Conduct a thorough Risk Assessment (RA) for all work activities to manage any foreseeable risk that may arise during facilities maintenance activities (e.g. cleaning, painting, repair) involving rope access. The RA should include, but is not limited to, the following areas:
• Hazards specific to the rope access technique or task (e.g. presence of other
trades or work activities, availability of anchor points, hazards that can place
the public or other workers at risk).
• Hazards present in the work environment (e.g. lightning, strong winds, power
lines, moving machinery, vehicular traffic).

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. Workplace Safety and Health (Work at Heights) Regulations 2013
5. Workplace Safety and Health (Scaffolds) Regulations 2011
6. Code of Practice on Workplace Safety and Health Risk Management
7. Code of Practice on Working Safely at Heights
8. SS 528 – 1: 2006 (2014) Personal Fall-arrest Systems
    Part 1: Full Body Harnesses
    Part 2: Lanyards and Energy Absorbers
    Part 3: Self-retracting Lifelines
    Part 4: Vertical rails and Vertical Lifelines incorporating a Sliding-type Fall Arrester
    Part 5: Connectors with Self-closing and Self-locking Gates
    Part 6: System Performance Tests
9. SS 588: 2013 Personal Equipment for Protection against Falls – Rope Access
Systems – Part 1: Fundamental Principles for a System of Work
10. SS 588: 2013 Personal Equipment for Protection against Falls – Rope Access
Systems – Part 2: Code of Practice
11. SS 570: 2011 Specification for Personal Protective Equipment for Protection
Against Falls from a Height – Single Point Anchor Devices and Flexible
Horizontal Lifeline Systems
12. SS 607: 2015 Specification for Design of Active Fall Protection Systems
13. WSH Guidelines on Personal Protective Equipment for Work at Heights
14. WSH Guidelines on Anchorage, Lifelines and Temporary Edge Protection Systems
15. WSH Guidelines on Safeguarding Against Falling Objects
16. WSH Guidelines on Fatigue Management
* Information on the accident is based on preliminary investigations by the Ministry of Manpower as at
26 February 2019. This may be subject to change as investigations are still on-going. Please 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 is 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.