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Fatal fall from boat in marina yard

In November 2018, a man died when he fell from a boat on a hardstand area at a marina. Early investigations indicate he landed on the ground after falling from the rear of the boat near portable stairs used to access the boat while in dry dock. Investigations are continuing.

Preventing a similar incident

People accessing vessels on hardstands can be exposed to serious risks of falls. Fall/edge protection on boats, such as handrails, are not usually designed in accordance with the requirements for guard rails used to control the risk of a fall when the vessel is placed on hardstands.

The PCBU responsible for the operation of the marina facilities, including the provision of hardstands, should ensure equipment is available for the safe access to vessels and to control the risk of a fall from vessels. This may include ladders, portable stair systems, scaffolding or temporary edge protection systems. The PCBU should also ensure people who access vessels on hardstands understand the associated risks and only access the vessel using equipment provided. Access equipment should be used in accordance with the instructions for its use.

Before accessing 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 and controlling risks where work is to be completed and the position of the access to and from the vessel.

Measures to control the risks of falls from vessels on hardstands include:

  • using a single ladder or purpose designed portable stair system incorporating a landing
  • ensuring ladders and other systems providing access and egress are fit for purpose and set up on stable ground with considerations for the traffic of the immediate area
  • ensuring ladders and other access systems have adequate handrails and are designed to minimise the gap between the vessel and the access system
  • ensuring ladders and other access systems have an effective method of securing against movement.
  • not using step ladders for access to and from the vessel
  • if scaffolding is used, ensuring it is erected by a competent person and complies with the scaffolding code of practice, with safe access and egress from the scaffold provided
  • ensuring guardrail systems are capable of sustaining the loads and have a top rail, mid-rail and a bottom rail or toe board
  • preventing access to areas without adequate control measures to prevent a fall
  • identifying and controlling trip hazards, especially when moving or transporting equipment.


Every year there are on average 1764 accepted workers' compensation claims involving a worker slipping or falling from a crane, mobile plant, building or stairs. Of these, nearly half involve a serious injury requiring five or more days off work.

Since 2013, there have been 308 notified incidents involving people injured or at risk of serious injury from a fall on and around plant and other structures. Of these, 16 involved a dry dock or wharf environment. We issued 11 statutory notices for the risk of a fall at a dry dock, wharf or marina workplace.

Prosecutions and compliance

In 2014 a construction company was fined $2,000 when a temporary scaffold was erected on the staircase of a residential house. This obstructed access and forced people using the staircase to pass by an unprotected edge approximately 1.5 metres from the floor. As such, safe access to and exit from the workplace was not provided and adequate protection from a risk of fall was not provided on this staircase.

In 2016, a business was fined $33,000 when a young worker fell over two metres onto a concrete floor from a mezzanine level in horse stable and sustained significant injuries. He had been counting feed and was returning to the ground level when he fell. Access and egress to the mezzanine floor did not have any hand rail or other fall protection.

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