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Developed and maintained
by the NFCC

Control measure
Clean line principle: Working near, on or in water

Control measure knowledge

Lines must always be easily releasable and have minimal snags, such as loops and knots. Lines should float, where required and be releasable from the anchor end and from the rescuer or casualty end. This is referred to as the ‘clean line principle’. All lines used in the water environment should be designed and treated for that purpose.

Personnel should have other means of releasing lines if they present a hazard to casualties or emergency responders such as the ability to cut a line if necessary.

The use of collective or personal work restraint systems that completely remove the risk of accidental entry when working near water may be considered where appropriate. The use of work restraint systems should be risk-assessed considering any reasonably foreseeable actions that may be required. If the risk of entry cannot be entirely removed, the clean line principle should be followed.

Releasable flotation devices for deployed personnel in a water environment, and necessary lighting, can contribute to the safe use of lines if deployed during a water search or rescue. For more information refer to Personal protective equipment: Water rescue.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Provide lines and equipment suitable for use at water rescues

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Apply the clean line principle at water rescue incidents

  • Deploy appropriate work restraint systems at water rescue incidents

  • Ensure personnel have the means to release lines if they present a hazard at a water rescue incidents