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Toolbox Talk: Working Around or Over Water

By April 29, 2021 No Comments

Most serious or fatal water related incidents occur in inland waters such as rivers, lakes, canals or marinas and are caused by careless behavior and lack of safety awareness often resulting in entrapment and drowning. Let’s look closer at the increased risk factors, potential exposures, prevention and best practices to keep everyone safe at work!

Increased Risk Factors

There are a number of risk factors that are intensified when water is involved:

  • Equipment weight and vibration
  • Inadequate berms
  • Undercut banks
  • Varied water depth
  • Sloughing ground
  • Narrow roadways
  • Swift currents
  • Electrocution


These include but not limited to the following:

  • Open storage tanks/water treatment facilities
  • Docks or piers
  • Lake/pond dams or work along banks
  • Fish passages
  • Narrow banks and steep slopes
  • Bridges

Drowning Prevention

  • Working platforms must be properly constructed including toe-boards and guard-rails
    • Secure boards to prevent being dislodged by rising water or high winds
  •  Ladders should be lashed
  • Safety harnesses must be worn where appropriate
  • Use fall restraint instead of fall arrest
  • Lighting must be adequate for night work and illuminate the immediate surrounding water surface
  • Check on your co-workers at frequent intervals
  • Materials must be stacked in order to maintain clear access
  • Tools not in use must be stowed away
  • Ensure that work-floats are properly loaded, stable and securely moored.
  • Ensure deck access and egress are clean and don’t become slippery
    • Deal quickly with hazards
  • If there is a risk of drowning, wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved type I, II, III, or V personal floatation device (PFD), even when inside mobile equipment
    • Auto-inflatable, if possible
  • When working from a boom supported elevating work platform over water, you could be required to wear both a fall harness and a PFD

Best Practices to Prevent Accidents

  • Never work alone, use the “buddy system”
  • Conduct daily workplace examinations for hazards and changing conditions
  • Keep equipment/material a safe distance back from the water’s edge
  • Avoid traveling over ice covered water
  • Properly berm road and pathways near water hazards
  • At least one U.S. Coast Guard approved 30-inch life ring with not less than 90 feet (not to exceed 200 feet) of line attached shall be immediately available
  • Ensure site personnel are current with first aid and CPR training
  • At least one lifesaving skiff shall be immediately available at locations where employees are working over or adjacent to water as water conditions allow
  • Each skiff, or skiffs, shall be suitable for conditions where used, be equipped with oar locks securely attached to gunwales, oars, one boat hook, and one U.S. Coast Guard-approved 30-inch life ring with fifty feet of suitable line attached

Remember, safety is built one step at a time!

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