Working Over Water Safety Guidelines

Working Over Water Safety Guidelines

There will be times throughout various construction and maintenance projects where working over water will be required. A number of different industries such as remote workstations, work in and around ports and the mining sector will utilise contractors to work near water.


But, how can we ensure the safety of our workers when near water?


Water can be quite a hazardous field to work around, especially if workers are not proficient swimmers. However, there are a number of things we can do to ensure risk is minimised and staff/contractors can remain as safe as possible when working above water.


  1. Conduct appropriate safety and risk assessment checks
    A risk assessment should be conducted and reviewed by a suitably qualified person at various stages of a project or task. Upon reviewing the risks and potential risks of the area, the assessment should identify all risks, as well as the methods used to address each risk. The risk assessment is then used for future reporting to ensure the measures put in place to reduce the risk are still appropriate and if not, what else can be done to increase safety.
  2. All equipment is tested and examined
    Any equipment on the site that is used over or near water will need to be periodically checked and tested. Any lifting appliances or gear as well as any plant or machinery should be checked regularly for any faults or damages. As with any construction or work site, only qualified and experienced operators should be using machinery on the site.
  3. Ensure contractors work together
    One way to avoid the risk of danger and injury is for contractors to be working with others, preferably in pairs. By working together, one worker may in fact work as a ‘spotter’ whereby they watch (or ‘spot’) the other worker to ensure they are safe and do not fall in the water. If a worker is to fall in the water, their spotter will be able to raise the alarm as soon as possible.
  4. Have appropriate communication
    The lack of good communication in any project or industry can be dangerous. The use of appropriate communication methods is a must. UHF devices to contact other workers immediately is quite beneficial. However, it’s important not to forget the other forms of communication such as written and verbal. Communicating to staff in appropriate training on the best ways to handle an emergency situation is vital. Having all contact details, important information and emergency procedures written and on display for all workers can also help to alleviate plenty of risks.
  5. Use floatation devices
    The use of buoyancy aids play a minor role in a comprehensive water safety strategy as prevention is almost always the better option. However, in the event of an emergency or risk, floatation devices can still help to save lives. The use of this equipment does come down to the project and where an inflatable PFD is to be used. In some cases, the use of an inflatable PFD could pose a risk in itself. A comprehensive risk assessment can help determine if this is an appropriate measure or not.
  6. Keep workers safe if/when working at height
    If you’re working on a project over water and at a height, suitable guardrails and toe boards should be installed at all edges of the platform. In fact, safe working platforms are a must for a safe project. Over water platforms and access solutions can be obtained from appropriate scaffolding companies. With the right equipment, training must be performed with all workers to ensure everyone understands the best way to stay safe.


It’s always important to understand the risks involved in any construction project whether it be on land or over/near water. Reducing the risks and using appropriate gear and equipment can dramatically reduce risks to your workers.


If you have a project that requires workers to work above water, Uni-Span have the best over water access solutions for your needs. Give us a call today on 1300 882 825 or visit our website for more information: