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Person seriously injured by falling boat

In July 2019, a person was seriously injured when a large boat on a hardstand toppled over. Early enquiries indicate a prop or stand that was part of the system stabilising the boat may have been moved for easier access when maintenance was being done.

Investigations are continuing.

Preventing a similar incident

When performing maintenance or other tasks on vessels which are on hardstand areas in yards and marinas, workers and other people can be exposed to risk of death or serious injury associated with unexpected or uncontrolled movement of the boat. Before commencing any task on boats located on hardstand areas, all parts of the vessel must be stable.

A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) has a duty to ensure workers and other persons are not exposed to health and safety risks, including the safe use, handling, storage and transport of plant. The person with management or control of marina or boatyard operations has a duty to ensure plant is of no risk to the health and safety of any person. That includes the safe use, handling and storage of both the equipment and system used to stabilise boats out of water.

Before commencing any work on a boat on a hardstand, the risk of uncontrolled or unexpected movement must be managed. Props, braces, stands, blocks, timbers and cradles are often used for lateral stability. Any propping or bracing system used should be designed by a competent person with experience and knowledge of the potential loadings. If the support system needs to be altered for any reason, then it should be re-assessed by a competent person to ensure integrity is maintained.

A risk assessment must be completed and a safe system of work in place before any work is performed on a boat on a hardstand. Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who operate and manage the business or undertaking.

Managing work health and safety risks is an ongoing process. Risk management involves four steps;

  • identify hazards - find out what could cause harm
  • assess risks - understand the possible harm, how serious it could be, and the likelihood of it happening
  • control risks - implement the most effective control measure that is reasonably practicable in the circumstances
  • review control measures to ensure they are working as planned.

When assessing the risks associated with boat stability (on hardstand), you need to consider the following;

  • when designing the propping system, consider any access requirements by workers or others at various stages of carrying out the work task
  • prevention of workers or others making unauthorised alterations to the propping system
  • the propping or bracing system used will ensure boat stability for the entire duration it is on hardstand
  • the condition of the materials used to laterally support the boat e.g. timbers, stands, props, braces
  • competency of persons designing the propping or bracing system and persons installing the system

Once the risks have been assessed, the next step is to control risks. These control measures are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest (hierarchy of control). The WHS Regulation 2011 requires PCBU's to work through this hierarchy to choose the control which most effectively eliminates or, where that is not reasonably practicable, minimises the risk in the circumstances.

You must always aim to eliminate a hazard causing the risk with something of lesser risk. If these controls are not reasonably practicable, you must minimise the risk by one or a combination of the following:

  • Engineering - only use props, braces, stands, blocks and cradles according to their design and are free from any defects. Any components used to support the boat while it is on hardstand should be used, inspected and maintained according to the manufacturer's specifications and instructions.
  • Administrative controls - if risk remains, it must be minimised by implementing administrative controls, so far as is reasonably practicable. For example;
    • developing safe work procedures on the use of props, stands, blocks and cradles or other systems used to stabilise boats out of the water while ensuring only authorised persons can alter the propping system for the boat
    • providing instruction, training and supervision on safe work procedures to workers and others (e.g. sub-contractors and tradespersons)
    • use of signage or tape to warn of the danger of altering the propping system
    • establishing exclusion zones surrounding the hardstand area where the boat is stored
    • before commencing any maintenance work on a boat on hardstand, all stands or props should be inspected by an authorised person to determine if any movement or alterations to the system has occurred.
  • Personal protective equipment - any remaining risk must be minimised with suitable personal protective equipment. For example;
    • provision of hard hats
    • steel cap boots
    • protective eyewear.


Between July 2014 and March 2019, there were 28 accepted workers' compensation claims involving entrapment by motorised water craft.

From July 2014 to August 2019, WHSQ was notified of 31 incidents involving a crush related injury in the maritime industry.

In the same period, WHSQ issued 626 statutory notices for incident which involved marine vessels, incorporating ships, boast and yachts in the maritime industry.

Prosecutions and compliance

In 2014, a company was fined $55,000 after a member of the public was fatally crushed when a disused car at a waste transfer station fell onto him. The person had made enquiries about car tyres and wheels dumped at the premises and was advised he could remove them using his own tools.

He was offered help by a worker to suspend the vehicle but declined the assistance. In the process of removing the tyres, the car fell, fatally crushing him. A short time later a worker came to check on the progress of the tyre removal and found him pinned under the car.

More Information

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