Accident Advisory: Worker fell within cargo hold of vessel

28 Jan 2020

Ref No.: 280120 (1)

UEN: S97SS0046G

Dear Valued ASPRI Members,

Accident Advisory: Worker fell within cargo hold of vessel

Ref: 1920070 WSH Alert Accident Notification dated 28 November 2019

On 26 November 2019 around 8:55am, a worker inside a cargo hold of a vessel under repair fell over the edge of a deck and landed at the bottom of the cargo hold. The height of fall was about 9.3 metres. He was conveyed to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.


Persons in control of similar workplaces and work activities such as occupiers, principals and employers are advised to consider the following risk control measures to prevent similar accidents:

Safe Access to and Egress from Work Area

  • Provide a safe means for workers to get to and move around the work area. The planning for suitable access and egress should take into account the actual site conditions, and the various tools and equipment each worker will need to carry along for the work activity.
  • Should the work area pose a risk of falling from height, the occupier should implement risk control measures including control of access such that only competent and authorised persons are allowed into the work area.

Fall Prevention Plan

  • Establish and implement a fall prevention plan (FPP) which includes:
    • a summary of site hazards and their corresponding risk control(s);
    • safe work procedure (SWP) for the work activity; and
    • permit-to-work (PTW) system for work at heights.

Refer to the Code of Practice for Working Safely at Heights for details on establishing a FPP and PTW system.

Effective Edge Protection

  • Wherever possible, install guardrails to ensure that there are no open sides/ edges from which a worker could fall over
  • Ensure all work areas are sufficiently illuminated for the work to be carried out safely. Workplace illumination is important as this will allow workers to clearly identify unsafe conditions. In this case, the workplace was poorly illuminated as the hatch cover of the cargo hold was closed at the time of accident, making it difficult to detect the presence of an open edge.

Workplace Inspection

  • Conduct a workplace inspection (and housekeeping) to confirm that access routes are free of obstructions and slip, trip and fall (STF) hazards before allowing any work to begin. STF hazards are particularly dangerous if they are located next to an open edge as a slip or trip could result in a fall from height.

Safe Work Procedure

  • Develop a SWP for work involving work at height and provide adequate training for all workers exposed to the risk of falling from height so that the work can be performed safely.

Supervision for Work at Height

  • Provide immediate supervision for the work activity. This is to ensure that the FPP is in place and the SWP strictly adhered to. Supervision will also allow for immediate intervention to address workers’ at-risk behaviour, if any.

Risk Assessment

Conduct a thorough Risk Assessment (RA) for all work activities to manage any foreseeable risk that may arise during work at height. The RA should cover but not limited to the following areas:

Confined Space Identification

  • The hatch cover of the cargo hold was closed at the time of accident and the cargo hold may be considered a confined space, in which case the Workplace Safety and Health (Confined Spaces) Regulations 2009 applies. No entry into or work in a confined space without evaluation and confined space entry permit should be allowed under any circumstance.
  • Should the confined space contain other risks such as a fall from height risk, then the confined space entry permit may be approved only after the permit for hazardous work at height has been approved.

Worker Health Condition

  • Only workers who are fit for work, feeling well and not afraid of heights may be deployed in work situations involving hazardous work at height.

Near-Miss Reporting

  • Workers should be encouraged to inform their supervisors of any unsafe condition (e.g. an open edge) once it is detected. This is to allow the necessary risk controls to be implemented before an accident happens.

Further Information

  1. Workplace Safety and Health Act
  2. Workplace Safety and Health (Risk Management) Regulations
  3. Workplace Safety and Health (Shipbuilding and Ship-Repairing) Regulations 2008
  4. Workplace Safety and Health (Work at Heights) Regulations 2013
  5. Workplace Safety and Health (Confined Spaces) Regulations 2009
  6. Workplace Safety and Health (General Provisions) Regulations
  7. Code of Practice on Workplace Safety and Health Risk Management
  8. Code of Practice for Working Safely at Heights
  9. SS 531: Code of Practice for Lighting of Work Places – Part 1: Indoor
  10. SS 568: Code of Practice for Confined Spaces
  11. WSH Guidelines on Anchorage, Lifelines and Temporary Edge Protection Systems
  12. WSH Guidelines on Personal Protective Equipment for Work at Heights
  13. Technical Advisory on Working Safely in Confined Spaces
  14. WSH Guide on Behavioural Observation and Intervention
  15. WSH Guide on Near Miss Reporting
  16. WSH Council’s Work at Heights Toolkit for Supervisors
  17. WSH Council’s Case Studies on Accidents Involving Work at Heights
  18. 6 Basic Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Rules for Work at Heights
  19. WSH Council’s Activity Based Checklist for Working Safely on Heights

Information on the accident is based on preliminary investigations by the Ministry of Manpower as at 27 December 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 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.