Accident Advisory: Worker Fell off Tug Boat and into the Water

Figure 1: Above picture shows the tug boat parked at the pier.

From the Singapore Workplace and Safety Council :

Ref: 1920033 WSH Alert Accident Notification dated 26 July 2019

On 5 July 2019 around 1.40pm, a worker while retrieving a mooring rope on-board a tug boat, fell overboard. The worker was rescued by the crew on-board the tug boat and was conveyed to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.


For work involving boat services or near a body of water, the risk of falling overboard and drowning is a foreseeable risk that must be addressed. Persons in control of workplaces that present similar risks should consider the following control measures to prevent similar accidents:

Safe Work Environment

• As part of workplace housekeeping, check the deck of the boat on a regular basis to confirm that all walkways are safe for use. Any visible contamination (e.g. oil, mud) ought to be removed as soon as possible as these can lead to slip, trips and falls.
• Remove tripping hazards (e.g. due to the placement of mooring ropes on the deck of the boat) where possible, and affix hazard signs or stickers near the potential trip location.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

• Check that workers are properly attired with the necessary personal protective equipment (e.g. life vest, anti-slip footwear) for work at locations on-board the boat where one could fall into the water.
• In cases where there are no effective barriers (e.g. guard-rails) to prevent workers from falling into the water, the provision and use of life jacket is required. In addition, it is important that employers ascertain the workers’ ability to swim before deployment. The ability to swim will help to reduce the risk of drowning should the worker fall into the water.

Hazard Communication

• Conduct daily toolbox meetings prior to work commencement and shift handover. Such meetings provide the opportunity to ensure that workers are aware of the hazards associated with the work activity and specific work environment.

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 Plan

• Equip each boat with life-saving equipment (e.g. life buoy with rope) for use in the event of an emergency. Similarly, life-saving equipment should be mounted at accessible locations along the shore where the boats are 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 to control any foreseeable risk that may arise during the course of work. The RA should cover, but not limited to, the following areas:
• Safe work procedure for mooring rope retrieval.
• The possibility of falling into the waters while working on the boat and when moving from shore-to-boat or boat-to-shore, and when moving between boats.
• 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.
• Workers health condition (e.g. fitness to work, pre-existing health condition, use of medication).
• Rescue plan in the event of an emergency.

Let’s be safe out there!

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