A worker in Queensland recently suffered serious injuries after falling approximately 2.5 metres from the rear of a large yacht docked on a hardstand at a marine maintenance facility.
Early investigations indicate the worker was doing maintenance at the time, and investigations are continuing.
People accessing and working on vessels on hardstands can be exposed to serious risks of falls, according to WHSQ, which said typical edge protection on many types of vessels (e.g. the gunwales and handrails) are not usually designed the same as land-based situations where guard rails are used to control the risk of a fall.
PCBUs responsible for the operation of the marina facilities should ensure suitable equipment is available for safe access to vessels and to control the risk of a fall from them.
This duty also applies to other PCBUs that perform work within the marine facility.
Suitable equipment may include portable platform step ladders or purpose-designed portable stair systems, scaffolding or temporary edge protection systems.
Marine facility operators will likely share responsibility for health and safety matters with other businesses within the facility.
In these situations, PCBUs must determine who holds the relevant obligations and work together with other duty holders in a consultative, co-operative and co-ordinated way to eliminate or minimise risks so far as is reasonably practicable.
PCBUs should also ensure people who access or work on marine vessels on hardstands understand the associated risks and only use the appropriate equipment provided. Access equipment should only be used in accordance with the instructions for their use.
WHSQ said effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who operate and manage the business.
Managing work health and safety risks associated with falls is an ongoing process and involves four steps; the identification of hazards, assessing risks, controlling risks, and reviewing control measures to ensure they are working.
Before accessing or working on marine vessels on hardstands, a competent person should perform a risk assessment to identify areas where there is a risk of a fall. Particular focus should be placed on identifying the location and type of work to be done and the length of time and frequency of access required to and from the vessel.
This must be done in consultation with those performing the work. Once the risks associated with each fall hazard have been assessed, the next step is to control risks associated with falls. These control measures are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest and are known as the hierarchy of control.
Following the hierarchy of control, you must always aim first to eliminate the hazards associated with falls.
If it’s not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, then the risk should be minimised using one or a combination of the following:
Fall prevention devices include any equipment designed to prevent a fall for temporary work at heights and access to work areas. Examples include, but are not limited to:
Equipment should be regularly inspected and maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When a defect is identified, the component or equipment should be taken out of service until it has been replaced or repaired.
These may be used to support other control measures and may include:
If a risk remains, it must be minimised so far as reasonably practicable by using personal protective equipment (PPE). For example: