Accident Advisory: Worker succumbed while carrying out painting works

12 Mar 2019

Ref No.: 120319 (1)
UEN: S97SS0046G

Dear Valued ASPRI Members,

Accident Advisory: Worker succumbed while carrying out painting works

On 22 January 2019 around 5.30pm, two workers were using rope access equipment to paint the exterior of a building. Whilst at work, a passing vehicle snagged the tail-end of one of the ropes, causing the rope to snap. One of the workers fell and landed on the ground. The worker was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.


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

Work planning

  • Pre-work assessment
  • Review the means of access (e.g. scaffold/suspended scaffold, mobile elevated work platform, rope access) for the work activity and select the most suitable and safest means of access for the task.
  • Should the rope access method be selected, further assessment includes evaluating the difficulty level of the task and risks involved, as well as assigning the work to the rope access team with the relevant experience for the task.

Competent rope access team

A rope access team generally comprises the rope access worker(s)/operative(s), rope access supervisor, and rope access manager. Their competencies should include, but not limited to, the following:

  • Rope access worker/operative
  • Select the appropriate rope access equipment to be used for the work activity.
  • Conduct pre-use inspections of rope access equipment for defects. Only equipment that is in good condition may be used.
  • Carry out the rope access technique in accordance to the safe work procedure.
  • Conduct basic equipment maintenance which includes cleaning and proper storage.


  1. Workers/operatives must be physically fit for the task and not have fear of heights.
  2. Retraining and reassessment is required for workers/operatives who are not continuously engaged in rope access work. Periodic refresher training is recommended for workers who are continuously engaged in such work.

Rope access supervisor

  • Ensure competent worker(s)/operative(s) are assigned to the task and that the appropriate rope access equipment are provided.
  • Conduct on-site risk assessment and confirm risk controls measures are in place.
  • Closely monitor the worksite for safe work conditions and the worker(s)/ operatives(s) for safe work practice.
  • Interface with other trades/activities at the worksite to ensure minimal disruption to the work activity involving rope access
  • Plan for an emergency response and initiate (or perform) rescue of rope access worker/operative in the event of a workplace incident.

Rope access manager

  • Define a safe system of work (e.g. pre-work risk assessment, development of safe work procedure and fall prevention plan, permit-to-work system) for rope access operations.
  • Assess the suitability of the risk control measures for the work activity.
  • Communicate the task requirements (including WSH requirements) to the rope access supervisor and/or team members.
  • Manage the overall execution of the work activity.

Safe rope access equipment

  • Ensure rope access equipment used is in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions and able to withstand any loads or force imposed on it, factoring in additional safety margins.
  • Ensure no part/component of the rope access equipment can be accidentally removed or dislodged/unfastened from the working line or safety line during the work activity (see Figure 2).
  • Body harnesses should support the worker/operative comfortably in the working position. It is recommended that new harnesses be subjected to a suspension test in a safe place to ensure it can bear the weight of the worker/operative and any load carried.
  • Equipment should be placed on a preventive maintenance programme. Periodic maintenance not exceeding 6 months and ad-hoc inspections will be necessary especially for older equipment that has been used frequently.

On-site controls

  • Ensure the rope access team has at least 2 members, including a supervisor.
  • Provide the rope access team with means to communicate with one another during the work activity.
  • Cordon off the area below the rope access operation and deploy a sentry to safeguard the area below the work activity. Put in place measures (e.g. by using a clearly marked exclusion zone with physical barriers) to divert/manage pedestrian and vehicular traffic as necessary.
  • Check there is no incompatible work activity in the vicinity that may pose danger to the rope access team during the work activity.
  • Develop an emergency rescue plan for the specific worksite. Possible rescue scenarios include worker/operative self-rescue, rescue by fellow workmates, or rescue by a dedicated on-site emergency response team.

Safeguard against falling objects

To safeguard workers and the public who may be in the vicinity of the rope operation, measures that can be implemented include:

  • Ensure rope access workers/operatives are using a tool attachment strap (See Figure 2) and a tool bag/pouch for holding tools and materials while working at height.
  • Setting up a safety net or catch platform below the work zone to prevent falling tools and/or falling materials from hitting someone on the ground level.

Worker well-being

  • Encourage workers/operatives to inform their supervisor if they are feeling unwell, under medication or experiencing fatigue.
  • Provide adequate rest breaks to workers/operatives taking into account the adverse effects of weather, working at altitude (e.g. high wind speeds) and possibly difficult working positions.
  • Ensure there is a sheltered rest area with ready access to cool drinking water.


Conduct a thorough Risk Assessment (RA) for all work activities to manage any foreseeable risk that may arise during facilities maintenance activities (e.g. cleaning, painting, repair) involving rope access. The RA should include, but is not limited to, the following areas:

  • Hazards specific to the rope access technique or task (e.g. presence of other trades or work activities, availability of anchor points, hazards that can place the public or other workers at risk).
  • Hazards present in the work environment (e.g. lightning, strong winds, power lines, moving machinery, vehicular traffic).


  1. Workplace Safety and Health Act
  2. Workplace Safety and Health (Risk Management) Regulations
  3. Workplace Safety and Health (General Provisions) Regulations
  4. Workplace Safety and Health (Work at Heights) Regulations 2013
  5. Workplace Safety and Health (Scaffolds) Regulations 2011
  6. Code of Practice on Workplace Safety and Health Risk Management
  7. Code of Practice on Working Safely at Heights
  8. SS 528 – 1: 2006 (2014) Personal Fall-arrest Systems
    • Part 1: Full Body Harnesses
    • Part 2: Lanyards and Energy Absorbers
    • Part 3: Self-retracting Lifelines
    • Part 4: Vertical rails and Vertical Lifelines incorporating a Sliding-type Fall Arrester
    • Part 5: Connectors with Self-closing and Self-locking Gates
    • Part 6: System Performance Tests
  9. 9. SS 588: 2013 Personal Equipment for Protection against Falls – Rope Access Systems – Part 1: Fundamental Principles for a System of Work
  10. SS 588: 2013 Personal Equipment for Protection against Falls – Rope Access Systems – Part 2: Code of Practice
  11. SS 570: 2011 Specification for Personal Protective Equipment for Protection Against Falls from a Height – Single Point Anchor Devices and Flexible Horizontal Lifeline Systems
  12. SS 607: 2015 Specification for Design of Active Fall Protection Systems
  13. WSH Guidelines on Personal Protective Equipment for Work at Heights
  14. WSH Guidelines on Anchorage, Lifelines and Temporary Edge Protection Systems
  15. WSH Guidelines on Safeguarding Against Falling Objects
  16. WSH Guidelines on Fatigue Management

Information on the accident is based on preliminary investigations by the Ministry of Manpower as at
26 February 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 is 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.