Working Around Water

 Most drowning incidents occur in inland waters such as rivers, lakes, canals or marinas and are caused by careless behavior and lack of safety awareness.


  • Open storage tanks / water treatment facilities
  • Pond dams or work along banks
  • Narrow banks and steep slopes
  • Docks or piers

Drowning Prevention

  •  Working platforms must be properly constructed including toe-boards and guard-rails. Secure boards to prevent being dislodged by rising water or high winds.
  • Ladders should be lashed.
  • Safety harnesses must be worn where appropriate.
  • Use fall restraint instead of fall arrest
  • Lighting must be adequate for night work and illuminate the immediate surrounding water surface.
  • Check on your co-workers at frequent intervals.
  • Materials must be stacked in order to maintain clear access.
  • Tools not in use must be stowed away.
  • Ensure that work-floats are properly loaded, stable and securely moored.
  • Ensure deck access and egress are clean and don’t become slippery. Deal quickly with hazards.
  • If there is a risk of drowning, wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved type I, II, III, or V personal floatation device (PFD).
  • When working from a boom supported elevating work platform over water, you are required to wear both a fall harness and a PFD.

Emergency Preparations

  • Never work alone, use the “buddy system”
  • At least one U.S. Coast Guard approved 30-inch life ring with not less than 90 feet of line attached shall be immediately available.
  • Provide employees with first aid, CPR training
  • At least one lifesaving skiff shall be immediately available at locations where employees are working over or adjacent to water.
  • Each skiff, or skiffs, shall be suitable for conditions where used, be equipped with oar locks securely attached to gunwhales, oars, one boat hook, and one U.S. Coast Guard-approved 30-inch life ring with fifty feet of suitable line attached.

Questions for Discussion

  • Why is a personal floatation device a necessity when working around water?
  • How do we rescue an unconscious worker in the water?

Presenter tips

  • Pre-read the Toolbox Talk. Your comfort level and confidence will be higher if you know your topic.
  • Discuss related tasks, work areas or events that make the Toolbox Talk relevant to your job site.
  • Involve the workers by asking questions and input that drives discussion.