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In the world, we work intensively we with water. On our rivers, there are ships, in our ports, there is extensive transportation and at sea, we drill for oil. In addition, we work hard on docks, sluices, bridges, pontoons, etc. And with all that water, our economy stays afloat. As we all know, water can also be dangerous. Each year, many people die by drowning.

The approach described here has a lot of overlap with working at height. In this section, we focus more on activities on and around the water. 

Life jackets
Tools for water work

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Fall protection
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When you end up in the water unintentionally, you run a great risk of drowning or hypothermia. When you are very focused on your work, it is easy to make a misstep, which is why it is essential, in addition to avoiding falling into the water in the first place, also to protect yourself against drowning and hypothermia. 

Hypothermia
When people fall into the water, the chance of hypothermia is often greater than drowning. In water, the body cools of 20 times faster than in air. The open waters in the Netherlands have temperatures between 5 and 18o C. At sea, that is even lower. On average, the body temperature will drop 1o C. every 5 minutes. Complete hypothermia sets in when the core body temperature drops below 35o C., which death generally occurs at 24o C. So you can calculate how long you could survive without protection.
 


Which legislation is relevant?

The employer is responsible for creating optimum working conditions, providing information to the employees and taking specific measures to remove or limit risks. On the basis of article 3 of the Health and Safety Law, the aim has to be to prevent – in all reason – people from going overboard as much as possible. 

An important article from the Inland Shipping Police Regulations (IPR) is “good seamanship” (art. 1.04 and 1.05), which states that the employer has to take every precaution to prevent dangerous situations, which starts with keeping people from falling overboard.

When that risk continues to exist, see which other solutions are possible and, in addition, set up a procedure to bring people who have fallen overboard back on board as quickly as possible.

Although wearing a life jack is mandatory among professional sailors, guidelines for quays, scaffolds and pontoons are less explicit. However, the idea remains the same: Preventing incidents, and then looking for ways to limit the impact.

Risk approach:

How to handle the source of the risk

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First of all, it is important to try and remove the source of the risk. In our land of water, that is quite difficult. The only measure at this level is to move certain tasks away from the water onto dry land. For instance in the form of prefabricated constructions for bridges or platforms. Or draining certain workplaces. Is that is realistic, that means there is a host of other measures you do not have to take. 

What are collective measures?

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As an organization, you can make sure that employees maintain as much distance as possible from the risk. For instance, by fencing of a quay, walking plank or a working area on a drilling platform, thus preventing people from falling into the water. 

What are individual measures?

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Now, we are getting closer to the individual. Like with collective measures, you can prevent your people from falling into the water, in this case not through fencing, but securing the employee, for instance with a positioning line. 

However, the most important thing is to make sure your people know what they are doing, which means they will also be aware of the risks and how to deal with them. In addition, it is, of course, important to inform them about work processes. That way, they will stay informed about where the risks are located and what they can do to make the work safe(r).

Work preparation: in the case of high-risk tasks, the work environment and the staff have to be well-prepared. Via a Task & Risk Analysis (TRA) in the workplace, the risks can be mapped. Based on that analyses, the employees can be given specific training or instructions. 

In addition to providing information, it is also important to inforce the rules. It is the employer’s responsibility to make sure the rules are obeyed, which makes supervision indispensable. 

Which personal protection gear can be used?

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  • Positioning line: prevents the employee from getting close to the edge or in dangerous areas. This measures is closest to actual prevention, because it keeps people from falling into the water. Other measures focus more on mitigating the effects, including:
     
  • Life jacket: this vest fills with air when you call into the water. It corrects your posture, keeping your face above water. Depending on your location (for instance at sea or in port), there are requirements regarding buoyancy.
     
  • Dry suit: this suit prevents hypothermia. It fits loosely, but has tight seals at the neck, wrists and ankles, preventing you from getting wet. In addition, you can wear clothes underneath it, so that the layers will keep you warm.
Conflicting regulations:
Fall protection: fall protection is mandatory for heights greater than 2.5 meters. Above water, a floating aid is generally accepted as an effective measure. But what is the container of the platform or crane is above water? Safety vest or fall protection, or perhaps both?

Have the risks assessed by an expert in advance. For instance, you can be secured to a platform, but, depending on the type, during an incident, it could drag you under water, thus increasing the risks. A safety expert will always base their verdict on the chance that an incident takes place, depending on the work equipment. To ensure safety, it may be necessary to combine safety measures. For more information, see working at height and fall protection

Other measures

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Good communication is essential for high-risk activities. In these types of work environments, having a waterproof walkie-talkie is indispensable, while PLB’s (Personal Locator Beacons) have often saved life in water with strong currents and at sea. PLB’s indicate people’s position, making it possible to rescue them as quickly as possible. 
 

How do you encourage people to work safely?

To encourage safe working behavior, there are three things that are important:

1. Knowledge: What do I have to do and why?
2. Attitude: Do I like this when I am working and will I use it?
3. Behavior: How do I need to use it. 

The first two things are crucial in persuading your employees. By creating awareness, you will ensure that your employees are move willing to take the right measures. 

Risk awareness is essential. Training courses and toolboxes can provide added value. Depending on the culture in your organization, you can choose the most effective way to transfer information. By continuously training your employees, you keep them informed of the risk, allowing them to be more prepared. 

In addition to the protection that the measures offer, comfort is also an important aspect. When an employee isn’t comfortable in his dry-suit, he will be less inclined to use it. And if a positioning line affects his productivity, he is more likely to disconnect it. Do don’t just think about finding the safest solution, but also choose one that is both functional and comfortable. The people who can give you the most valuable advice are your employees. After all, they have to use the safety measures. By creating a small work group with a PPG expert, you can select the best solution. 

Rules can create clarity, through signs, markings, instructions and information. Enforcing the rules is also important to make sure that the rules are being obeyed. It is important that you give the right example, showing your people that you obey the rules they have to follow as well. Your sincere concern will encourage your colleagues to take their own safety seriously. 
 

Advice: 

Sometimes, legislation seems designed to complicate things. For instance, safety vests and fall protection are hard to combine. Together with our clients, we have combined this PPG in one convenient and clever work suit. In other areas, we also map the most functional and comfortable solution.
 

Life jackets
Tools for water work

What standards should your life jacket meet?

Fall protection
Work at height? Use the safest tools!

All information about our fall protection

Who we are
VeiligGoed in a nutshell

Read more about our mission and services


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