Working Around Water Procedure



The purpose of this policy is to establish proper safety requirements for working around water and particularly for instream work during field sampling operations. It will help ensure that those involved in such activities are familiar with safe wading procedures and emergency preparedness. Working around water can be an inherently hazardous activity (hypothermia, drowning risk) for which safety must be the primary concern.

Wading Policy

1. General Safety

a)       Field sampling operations around water are not to be carried out alone. A minimum “ team” size is two people, one of whom must be the “crew leader” and the other “crew members”.

b)       Personnel must wear appropriate clothing and equipment in accordance with “Personal Protective Equipment Requirements for Wading/ Instream Work” as defined below.

c)       All instream crews must have a First Aid kit on site during wading operations.

d)       Everyone has the responsibility to work in a manner that is safe for themselves and their co-workers.

e)       The crew leader is the recognized authority and operational decision-maker. Crew members have the duty to comply with all of the crew leader's instructions concerning their health and safety and to report to the crew leader anything that is likely to be hazardous to their health or safety or to that of other employees or persons granted access to the work place.

2. Training

a)       All employees undertaking instream sampling or wading operations must be familiar with the hazards associated with those activities and agree to use common sense and safe wading practices during sampling.

b)       Crew leader and crew members must have up-to-date Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and First Aid training.

c)       Additional training may be required if sampling conditions warrant. Training that may be required includes UNBC Field Safety Orientation, Wilderness First Aid, Occupational First Aid Transportation Endorsement, and Swift Water Rescue Training.

3. Emergency Response Procedures

a)       Each electrofishing team must establish a means of emergency communication in order to provide backup response. This plan must include, but not necessarily be limited to, emergency phone numbers for the area of operation, best and closest means of communication, evacuation route to nearest medical facility, and the role of each crew member in the event of an emergency.

b)       All crew members must be aware of and able to implement the emergency response plan.

Personal Protective Equipment Requirements for Wading

a)       Leak-free chest waders (neoprene, heavy weight polyurethane or PVC or high-quality breathables)

b)       Non-slip footwear (felt wading shoe or boot, as well as stream wading cleat);

c)       Wading belt (nylon or rubber acceptable, worn on outside of waders);

d)       Polarized sunglasses (side shields or ‘wrap around’ style is/are recommended) and a hat with a visor is recommended (e.g., baseball cap style).

e)       Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) must be worn where the crew leader considers the water is of sufficient depth or velocity for a PFD to be effective as protection from risk of drowning. PFDs must be approved by Transport Canada or Canadian Coast Guard. Electrofishing should not be carried out where water depth is greater than waist deep.

f)        In some situations, a wading staff might be useful as a “third leg” to help stabilize personnel during stream crossing or other wading operations.

Safety Procedures for Wading Operations

1. Before Heading Out

a)       The crew leader must ensure all members have received instruction in the fundamentals of wading safety and working around water.

b)       It is the crew leader’s responsibility to ensure that all personnel are properly outfitted for the intended work.

c)       Where available, personnel should attempt to identify any information on known instream hazards at the intended field site, including current discharge stage (e.g., 

d)       Each instream sampling team must establish a means of emergency communication in order to provide backup response (as described above).

2. Preparatory Procedures in the Field

a)       A crew leader must be designated for all sampling activities near water.

b)       All crew members must be equipped with the personal equipment detailed in the “Personal Protective Equipment Requirements for Wading” section.

c)       Each instream work site must be visually inspected for hazards such as deep holes, submerged logs, etc. before commencing wading operations.

d)       In order to aid in identifying underwater hazards, all crew members must be equipped with polarized sunglasses. Glasses also protect against eye injury caused by sticks and branches. Wide brimmed hats or peaked caps are also beneficial in increasing the effectiveness of polarized glasses.

e)       Using visible landmarks, personnel must assess flow stage for the waterbody and continue to monitor for changes in water level during sampling operations.

f)        Clear command signals must be established between crew members prior to beginning operation. Crew members must inform the crew leader of any dangerous situations. Do not go into water that is above the level you have experienced before and are physically capable of handling.

3. Operational Procedures

a)       Operate slowly and carefully. Footing in most streams is poor and most falls occur when crew members are hurrying. Operations should cease when fatigue sets in.

b)       Plan a route that minimizes your exposure to the strongest currents/ deepest water. Sand and gravel bottoms are usually secure and safe bottoms to wade on. Avoid standing on large, smooth rocks.

c)       Plan on generally working in a downstream to upstream direction, ensuring solid footing before shifting positions

d)       Be aware of floating debris, changing water levels.

e)       In shallow water, less than knee deep, you may be able to walk "normally" with a modified, wide stance. As water gets deeper and footing becomes obscured by water depth or turbidity, sidestepping will help maintain a wide, stable base.

f)        In moderate currents, position your feet so that you are facing upstream with your body side-on to the current to brace yourself and reduce your profile in the current.

g)       When crossing streams, it is easier and safer to move at a slight downstream angle with the current than to move directly across or upstream against the current.

h)       In difficult situations, take small shuffling steps, angling your body slightly upstream. If using a wading staff, position it upstream of you maintaining two points of contact with the bottom at all times.

i)         In particularly difficult situations, use a buddy system in which you and a partner cross the stream together arm in arm, one upstream of the other so that you are supporting each other

j)        If you do happen to lose your footing and begin to float downstream, don’t try to swim. Bring your knees up and roll over on your back with your feet downstream, working your way to the sides or to a suitable place to get out.