Staying Safe Near Water: Essential Tips for Workplace Safety


Working near water poses unique occupational health and safety challenges that require careful attention and proactive measures to mitigate risks and ensure the well-being of workers. Whether it’s construction projects near rivers, maintenance work around lakes, or industrial operations near water bodies, employers and workers must prioritize safety.

Hazards working near Water

Water is an integral part of many workplaces across Canada, but it also poses significant occupational hazards. The risks associated with working near water include drowning, waterborne diseases, hypothermia, encounters with wildlife, and injuries caused by slips, trips, and falls. Therefore, it is essential to implement specific safety protocols and precautions to protect workers from these potential dangers. Here, we will discuss essential guidelines and best practices for ensuring safety when working near water.

Risk Assessment and Planning

Before starting any work near water, a thorough risk assessment should be conducted to identify potential hazards and risks specific to the location. Factors to consider include water currents, submerged obstacles, changing weather conditions, and the nature of the work being performed.

The risk assessment should consider:

Example Scenario:

For example, in construction projects near rivers, workers may be exposed to hazards such as unstable riverbanks, swift currents, and submerged debris. Similarly, maintenance work around lakes may involve risks such as slippery surfaces, remote work, working alone, and the presence of aquatic wildlife.

Based on this assessment, a comprehensive safety plan should be developed. This plan should address hazards, outline emergency procedures, and specify safety protocols for workers. It should also include measures to minimize risks, such as establishing work zones, implementing signage and barriers, and providing appropriate training and personal protective equipment (PPE) to workers.

Water Safety Training

All workers who will be working near water should receive comprehensive water safety training. This training should cover:

  • Awareness of water hazards
  • Proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Emergency response procedures

Designated workers should also receive specialized training in water rescue techniques, including reaching, throwing, and towing individuals in distress.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Workers must wear appropriate PPE when working near water. This may include:

  • Life jackets or personal flotation devices (PFDs) to provide buoyancy and protection in the event of a fall or immersion
  • Waterproof clothing to keep workers dry and comfortable while working near water
  • Safety helmets to protect workers from head injuries caused by falling objects or collisions with submerged obstacles
  • Eye and ear protection to prevent injuries from waterborne debris and loud noises

Regularly inspect and maintain PPE to ensure it remains in good working condition and meets safety standards. Any damaged or worn-out equipment should be replaced promptly to ensure the safety of workers.

Safe Work Practices

Implementing safe work practices is essential for minimizing the risk of accidents and injuries when working near water. This may include:

  • Using rope access techniques when working in areas with limited access.
  • Following confined space entry procedures when working in confined spaces near water.
  • Ensuring the proper use of fall protection equipment when working at height near water.

Establish procedures that comply with applicable regulatory requirements for working near water and ensure that all workers are trained in these procedures. Encourage workers to stay focused on the task at hand and avoid distractions, especially when working in potentially hazardous areas near water.

Environmental Considerations

Protecting the environment is essential when working near water. Take measures to:

  • Properly dispose of hazardous materials to prevent pollution and contamination of water bodies
  • Minimize sediment runoff to prevent pollution
  • Adhere to environmental regulations and best practices
  • Establish environmental spill/release response actions and clean up procedures.

By following these guidelines and best practices, employers and workers can minimize risks and ensure a safe and productive work environment near water bodies.

Planning Correctly

Emergency Preparedness

Establishing an emergency response plan is essential for ensuring the safety of workers when working near water. This plan should outline procedures for responding to water-related emergencies, including drowning, water rescues, and medical emergencies.

Designating Emergency Response Teams

Designate specific emergency response teams responsible for addressing water-related emergencies. These teams should consist of trained individuals capable of responding quickly and effectively to emergencies. Ensure that team members are familiar with their roles and responsibilities and are adequately trained in water rescue techniques and first aid.

Establishing Communication Protocols

Establish clear communication protocols to ensure effective coordination during emergencies. This includes establishing lines of communication between workers, supervisors, and emergency response teams. Implement communication methods that work reliably in the water environment, such as two-way radios, signal whistles, or hand signals.

Conducting Regular Emergency Drills

Regular emergency drills are essential to ensure that workers are familiar with emergency procedures and can respond effectively in the event of an emergency. Conduct drills frequently to practice emergency response procedures, including water rescues, medical emergencies, and evacuation procedures.


Working near water presents unique occupational health and safety challenges that require careful planning, training, and adherence to safety protocols. By prioritizing safety and following the guidelines outlined above, employers and workers can minimize risks and ensure a safe and productive work environment near water. Remember, safety is everyone’s responsibility!