Thursday, September 27, 2012

Worker Fell When Boarding a Barge and Drowned

26 Sep 2012

At the start of a new workday at 7:40 am, the Deceased was transferring from a workboat (used to ferry workers) to a fixed vertical ladder for boarding a crane barge anchored at sea. While he was trying to climb up the ladder, he lost his balance and fell into the sea. The life jacket the Deceased was wearing immediately inflated and he successfully grabbed onto a life buoy thrown to him by the barge supervisor. However, the Deceased became unconscious before he could be rescued and was subsequently pronounced dead when he arrived at the hospital. An autopsy revealed the cause of death to be drowning.

Figure 1: Worker was attempting to board the barge
                                      when he fell into the sea.


Industry stakeholders undertaking similar work activities are advised to consider the following to prevent a recurrence:
• Use a safer alternative access route to the barge (e.g. via land access instead of boat access) whenever on-site conditions allow.

• Develop a safe boat embarking and disembarking procedure. Boat passengers must be briefed on the procedure and advised not to attempt the transfer if sea conditions are unfavourable or if the boat is rocking excessively.

• Confirm that passengers are physically and medically fit for work assignments involving sea travel. The rocking of the boat may cause some to have motion sickness. Passengers who are feeling unwell should not attempt to board the barge.

• Workboat operator to ensure that the boat is steady and kept as close as possible to the barge before allowing passengers to disembark. Ideally, a workboat attendant should be stationed to guide the passengers and assist in the vessel-to-vessel transfer.

• Adorn each passenger with a life jacket or flotation vest adequate for the body weight of the wearer

• Check that all passengers are wearing appropriate footwear (tight-fitting shoes or boots with non-slip soles) for the transfer. The gap between the ladder rung and the barge wall should be large enough for one to use the heel lift of the shoe or boot to “grip” the ladder rung.

Figure 2:  The boat should be kept as close as possible to the barge before passengers are allowed to climb onto the fixed vertical ladder.

• Advise passengers to maintain 3-point contact with the fixed vertical ladder at all times while climbing the ladder.

• Recognize and address the risk of passengers falling into the sea and put in place an emergency rescue plan.

Further Information

1. Workplace Safety and Health Act (Chapter 354A), please click HERE.

2. Workplace Safety and Health (Risk Management) Regulations, please click 

3. Code of Practice on WSH Risk Management, please click 

4. Guide to Safe Boarding of Vessels, please click

5. Singapore Standard SS 513: Personal Protective Equipment - Footwear

Courtesy from WSH Council. For more info, pleas visit


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