Working over, on, or near water presents a danger that people may slip, trip, or fall into water or be swept off their feet by water leading to injuries and the risk of drowning.

This Guidance provides information, in respect of international standards, during work or - activities over, on, or near water. It covers the hazards likely to be met and the precautions that need to be taken to ensure safety standards are met. (Work activities include outfitting, commissioning, docking, launching and hauling activities.)

Many of the hazards described can have a detrimental effect on the environment, therefore, environmental protection measures have also been integrated within this document.


  • Ensure to have physical barriers to prevent falling (railing or harness).
  • Use proper flotation device.
  • Do not work alone near or above water.
  • Arrangements must be in place to ensure that persons can be rescued or independently climb out of the water.
  • Ring buoys with at least 30 metres of line shall be provided, not exceeding a 50 metre distance in between.


Any workplace over, on, or near water presents a danger that persons might slip or fall into the water, be swept off their feet by wave action, strong currents or swell from passing water traffic. Adverse weather is also a factor that can increase the danger, - as work conditions can change quickly. Whether or not a person is injured by falling into the water, there is an immediate risk of drowning and/or being carried away by water currents. Sound precautions must be taken, firstly to prevent persons from entering the water and secondly, - in the worst case scenario, to ensure that they -remain afloat and are rescued within the shortest possible time. A standby rescue boat allows –for prompt water rescue in cases of emergency.-. It is essential, when working over, on, or near water that safe systems of work are in place based on a thorough risk assessment and that staff are properly trained and instructed.

When working over, on, or near water consideration must also be given to potential health implications, as a result of falling into the water. The water may possibly be polluted, for example when working near sewage discharge points, and there is the ever-present risk of contracting leptospirosis (or Weil’s disease) from water contaminated by rat urine.

Download from our library

Guiding principle working over, on or near water introduction

Working Over, On or Near Water