Accident Advisory: Worker fell off barge and into river

22 Jul 2019

Ref No: 220719 (1)

UEN: S97SS0046G

Dear Valued ASPRI Members,

Accident Advisory: Worker fell off barge and into river

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.


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
  • 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.


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.


  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.