While the large majority of construction projects are performed over land, there will be times where working over water will be called for. There are a number of different industries that commonly work over water, such as remote workstations (working around ports) and the mining sector who will typically employ contractors to work near water when required.
But, how can we ensure the safety of our workers when working close to water?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that working near or around water can be rather dangerous, especially if workers are not competent swimmers. Nevertheless, there are a variety of measures that can be put in place to ensure any risks are decreased and staff/contractors can stay as safe as possible when working above water.
1. Have efficient communication methods
The lack of efficient communication methods in any project or industry can be precarious, so it’s critical that appropriate communication devices are utilised when working over water. UHF devices that enable workers to speak instantly with each other is very advantageous. Communicating to staff during training on the best ways to address an emergency situation is integral. Having all contact details, vital information, and emergency procedures written and on display for all workers can also help reduce the majority of risks that are presented.
2. All equipment is tested and reviewed
Any equipment that is required when working above or close to water must be regularly assessed and tested. Any lifting devices or gear in conjunction with any plant or machinery should also be checked on a regular basis for any problems or damages. Similar to any construction project, whether it be on land or near water, it’s vital that only qualified and experienced operators use machinery on the site.
3. Conduct relevant safety and risk assessment checks
Risk assessments should be organised and evaluated by a suitably qualified professional at multiple phases during the course of a project. After checking the prospective risks of the location, the assessment should detect all risks, in conjunction with the methods used to deal with each risk. The risk assessment is then used for future reporting to ensure the measures put in place to lessen these risks are still suitable, and if not, what else needs to be done to boost safety standards?
4. Ensure contractors collaborate efficiently
One way to lessen the risk of injury is for contractors to be working with others, preferably in pairs. Working in pairs allows one worker to act as a 'spotter', in that they watch (or 'spot') the other worker to make sure they are safe and are complying with all safety procedures. If a worker is to fall in the water for example, their spotter will be able to raise the alarm to the appropriate people as soon as possible.
5. Use floatation devices
Utilising buoyancy aids plays a minor role in a complete water safety strategy as prevention is typically the better option. However, in the event of an emergency, floatation devices can still help to save lives. Making use of this equipment does boil down to the project and where an inflatable PFD can be used, as sometimes using these devices can pose a risk in itself. Nevertheless, a complete risk assessment can help ascertain if this is an appropriate measure or not.
6. Keep workers safe if/when operating at height
If you're working on a project over water and at a height, appropriate guardrails and toe boards should be installed at all edges of the platform. In fact, safe working platforms are a must for all construction projects. Platforms that are positioned over water along with access solutions can be organised by a trusted scaffolding company. With the right equipment, training must be conducted with all workers to make certain that every worker understands the best way to stay safe throughout the project.
It's always important to recognise the risks associated with any construction project whether it be on land or above/near water. Mitigating the risks and using suitable gear and equipment can dramatically reduce the risks your workers face.
If you have a project that requires workers to work above water, Uni-Span have the best over water access solutions for your needs. Call us today on 1300 882 825 or visit our website to find out more: https://uni-span.com.au
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