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Shipyard Employment eTool: Barge Cleaning Operations
General Requirements Shipbuilding Ship Repair Shipbreaking Barge Cleaning

Barge Cleaning Operations » Common Hazards




Opening Covers
Figure 1: Releasing pressure and opening cover
Figure 1: Releasing pressure and opening cover.

Figure 2: Tank covers  one for ventilation and one for access
Figure 2: Tank covers - one for ventilation and one for access.

Take precautions when opening covers to tanks, and other confined or enclosed spaces, in the event the space is under pressure or hazardous materials have leaked from internal piping systems.

Typically, you should leave at least two nuts on opposite sides of the cover in place until the cover can be cracked and any internal pressure released. If there are other indicators of hazardous material leakage, inform the Shipyard Competent Person (SCP).

See Fall Hazards.

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Fall Hazards
Figure 3: Improper practice - Deck openings and holes create a significant fall hazard
Figure 3: Improper practice - Deck openings and holes create a significant fall hazard.

Figure 4: Workers exposed to falls from ladder and scaffold
Figure 4: Workers exposed to falls from ladder and scaffold.

Figure 5: Workers protected at deck edge by guardrail
Figure 5: Workers protected at deck edge by guardrail.

Figure 6: Deck opening protected with guard
Figure 6: Deck opening protected with guard.

Potential Hazards:

Fall hazards are a leading cause of fatalities. Barge cleaning workers are often required to work in dangerous environments that may include fall hazards. Accidents involving elevation equipment (such as ladders and scaffolds) are often serious, even fatal. Workers are also at risk to falls from open deck edges.

High-Pressure Cleaning

  • Sudden changes in hose line pressure may throw a worker from the work surface.
  • Cleaning can create static electricity. This may shock the worker and result in a fall.

Deck Openings and Edges

  • Falls from unguarded deck openings and edges
  • Falls into open holes

Requirements and Example Solutions:

Guarding of Deck Openings and Edges

  • Openings and deck edges must be guarded. [29 CFR 1915.73]
  • Flush manholes and other small openings must be guarded after opening. [29 CFR 1915.73(b)]
  • Fall protection (harness with lanyard) must be used during the installation of guards on deck openings and edges. [29 CFR 1915.73(d)]

Additional Resources:

Figure 7: Deck opening protected with guard
Figure 7: Deck opening protected with guard.

Figure 8: Barge in the process of mooring up
Figure 8: Barge in the process of mooring up.

Figure 9: Mooring the barge and standing away from the edge
Figure 9: Mooring the barge and standing away from the edge.

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Hazardous Material Assessment
Previous cargoes must be determined. If they contained hazardous materials, workers should be informed of the hazards and how to safely work with them. As part of the Hazard Communication standard [29 CFR 1915.1200], material safety data sheets (MSDS) for the cleaning solutions must be available for ready reference. Personnel must be provided with information contained in the MSDS such as: chemical name, hazard information, personal protective equipment (PPE), etc.

  • Removal, disposal, and/or recycling of residue and by-products (such as contaminated clothing, PPE, rags and cleaning supplies) from Shipyard Employment operations should be in accordance with local, state, and federal regulations/requirements.
  • Work closely with the owner of the barge to obtain information on the last three cargoes.

   Additional Resources:

  • NIOSH Pocket Guide
  • NFPA 306, Control of Gas Hazards on Vessels. National Fire Protection Association.
  • 33 CFR, Subpart 154 - Facilities Transferring Oil or Hazardous Materials in Bulk. This regulation is available on-line through the GPO Access website.
    • 154.735 - Safety Requirements. U.S. Coast Guard. This regulation allows for the incorporation of the International Safety Guide for Oil Tankers & Terminals (ISGOTT) guide for tank cleaning under 33 CFR 154.735(s)(1-3).
  • OCIMF International Safety Guide for Oil Tankers & Terminals. International Chamber of Shipping (ICS). This document outlines the international standard for cleaning tanks.
  • Safety Guidelines For Tank Vessel Cleaning Facilities. American Waterways Shipyard Conference. This guideline was created by the American Waterways Shipyard Conference (AWSC). AWSC merged with the Shipbuilders Council of America (SCA) in 1999.
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Static Electricity Hazards
Figure 10: Use non-sparking tools
Figure 10: Use non-sparking tools.

Figure 11: Blower with ground
Figure 11: Blower with ground.

Potential Hazards:

Static electricity can be generated in barge cleaning operations by:

  • Friction of different metals
  • Movement of grain
  • Transfer of liquids
  • Mechanical ventilation (such as pneumatic, non-sparking, air movers)
  • Vessel docking 
  • Atmospheric conditions
  • Movement of water around the vessel
  • Clothing (such as nylon or polyester fabrics, conductive shoes)
  • Conductive tools (such as shovels, scrapers, wrenches, and wire brushes)
  • High-pressure washing. See the High-Pressure Hazards card.

Requirements and Example Solutions:

When barge cleaning operations are capable of producing static electricity:

  • Equipment that may generate static electricity such as ventilation systems must be grounded/bonded. [29 CFR 1915.13(b)(11)].
  • Arcing and sparking equipment and tools must not be used. [29 CFR 1915.36(a)(1)]
Figure 12: Blower with ground
Figure 12: Blower with ground.

Figure 13: Barge grounding clamp and cable
Figure 13: Barge grounding clamp and cable.

Figure 14: Non-sparking brass wash nozzle
Figure 14: Non-sparking brass wash nozzle.

  • Flammable liquids should be transferred by using bonded hoses (such as static hoses) or adequately bonded containers (such as drums, cans, or portable tanks). Hoses should be tested to ensure continuity prior to use.
  • During all vessel docking operations, the bonding cable should be attached to the vessel prior to grounding to avoid sparking.
  • Precautions should be taken to eliminate sources that may create static electricity before and while lifting devices are used on vessels to hoist with flammable/combustible liquids.
  • Precautions should be taken when low humidity conditions increase the probability of static electricity.
  • If flammable solvents are involved in the operation, non-static discharge producing shoes/boots and shoe covers should be used.

Note: No one can work in a space that contains an atmosphere above 10% of the lower explosive limit (LEL). [29 CFR 1915.12, 29 CFR 1915.13, and 29 CFR 1915.14]

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Fire and Explosion Hazards
Figure 15: Improper practice - Worker covered with flammable oil
Figure 15: Improper practice - Worker covered with flammable oil.

Figure 16: Ventilation equipment used to maintain safe conditions for entry
Figure 16: Ventilation equipment used to maintain safe conditions for entry.

Figure 17: Worker testing space to see that safe conditions are maintained during cleaning
Figure 17: Worker testing space to see that safe conditions are maintained during cleaning.

Figure 18: Fire extinguishers located near cleaning operations
Figure 18: Fire extinguishers located near cleaning operations.

Potential Hazards:

Fire and explosions may be caused by:

  • Flammable and combustible cleaning solvents such as Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK), mineral spirits, and diesel fuel/oil
  • Liquids with high flash points (greater than 100 F) applied as a fine mist
  • Airborne particulate or dust
  • Hydrogen gas generated during cleaning processes
  • Reactive cargoes such as iron-ore, fertilizer, or incompatible chemicals

Requirements and Example Solutions:

When barge cleaning operations are capable of producing flammable/combustible atmospheres:

Figure 19: Testing inch and a half fire hose
Figure 19: Testing inch and a half fire hose.

Figure 20: Testing inch and a half fire hose
Figure 20: Testing inch and a half fire hose.

Figure 21: Storage of flammables
Figure 21: Storage of flammables.

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Respiratory Hazards
Figure 22:  Improper practice - Ventilation hoses extending into confined space to ensure safe conditions. (Improper practice if only access.)
Figure 22: Improper practice - Ventilation hoses extending into confined space to ensure safe conditions. (Improper practice if only access.)

Figure 23: Proper Practice: Use ventilation stack to ventilate space
Figure 23: Ventilation stack in supplied air mode.

Potential Hazards:

The most hazardous conditions in barge cleaning operations occur while exposing workers to oxygen-deficient atmospheres and toxic atmospheres. Toxic vapors may be produced by the previous cargo or cleaning agents and could present significant health hazards. When encountered in confined or enclosed spaces, these agents produce vapors that are often heavier than air. This can cause displacement of air, reducing oxygen levels, which may be fatal.

Requirements and Example Solutions:

  • Ensure adequate ventilation to maintain air concentrations below the permissible exposure limit (PEL). [29 CFR 1915.32(a)(2)]
  • The Shipyard Competent Person may require continual monitoring to determine that air concentrations are within the PELs and below immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH) levels. If they are not, additional engineering controls such as ventilation, administrative controls, or PPE such as respirators must be used. [29 CFR 1915.32(a)(3) and Maritime Labor/Industry Recommendations]
  • While ventilation is useful in allowing for safe air concentrations, it is crucial that the supplied air be tested to ensure it is from a clean source.
  • Airline respirators may be necessary if ventilation is not adequate.
  • Respirators must comply with 29 CFR 1915.154. [29 CFR 1910.134]
  • A hazard assessment shall be done to determine the proper selection of respirators. [29 CFR 1915.152(b)]

Additional Resources:

Figure 24: Containers of cleaning materials labeled with their hazards
Figure 24: Containers of cleaning materials labeled with their hazards.

Figure 25: Part of respiratory fit test prior to entry
Figure 25: Part of respiratory fit test prior to entry.

Figure 28: Worker wearing airline respirator with emergency escape air cylinder
Figure 28: Worker wearing airline respirator with emergency escape air cylinder.

Figure 26: PPE preparations for inline supplied fresh air respirator
Figure 26: PPE preparations for inline supplied fresh air respirator.

Figure 27: Regulator for inline breathing air
Figure 27: Regulator for inline breathing air.

  • Activities such as disturbing or removing sludge or scale, materials trapped below water, leaking pipelines or valves, and variation in temperature may cause atmospheric conditions to change. Frequent or continuous monitoring may be necessary.
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Corrosive and Toxic Material Hazards
Figure 29: Worker exposed to skin and eye contact hazards from cleaners and residues
Figure 29: Worker exposed to skin and eye contact hazards from cleaners and residues.

Figure 30: Emergency eye wash located near cleaning operations
Figure 30: Emergency eye wash located near cleaning operations.

Figure 31: Emergency shower
Figure 31: Emergency shower.

Figure 32: Washing facilities for workers
Figure 32: Washing facilities for workers.

Potential Hazards:

Workers using toxic and/or corrosive cleaning solutions are at risk if inhaled, or skin or eye contact occur. Note: Workers should understand the hazards associated with the materials used and contained in the space. This includes training in accordance with the Hazard Communication standard, (29 CFR 1915.1200). Hazards include:

  • Organ damage by absorption through the skin or eye
  • Eye or skin irritation
  • Defatting of skin

Requirements and Example Solutions:

Additional Resources:










  • Fixed or portable eye wash stations/safety showers should meet ANSI Z358.1-2004: Emergency Eye Wash and Shower Equipment.
  • Activities such as disturbing or removing sludge or scale, materials trapped below water, leaking pipelines or valves, and variation in temperature may cause atmospheric conditions to change. Frequent or continuous monitoring may be necessary.
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Excessive Noise Hazards
The OSHA Hierarchy of Controls
  1. Engineering Controls
  2. Administrative Controls
  3. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Figure 33: Workers exposed to noise from pressure washing
Figure 33: Workers exposed to noise from pressure washing.

Figure 34: Workers wearing earmuffs for protection from excessive noise
Figure 34: Workers wearing earmuffs for protection from excessive noise.

Potential Hazards:

Use of high-pressure cleaning equipment may produce high levels of noise, which could lead to hearing loss, and often necessitates a hearing conservation program. Some examples of excessively loud operations are:

  • Use of high-pressure water and steam guns
  • Use of pumps
  • Use of generators
  • Use of ventilation equipment

Requirements and Example Solutions:

Additional Resources:

  • Purchase or modify equipment to reduce noise levels.
  • Isolate or locate noisy equipment away from workers.
  • Shield noisy equipment.
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Biological Hazards
Figure 35: CHT tank poses hydrogen sulfide gas and other hazards
Figure 35: CHT tank poses hydrogen sulfide gas and other hazards.

Figure 36: Worker removing trash from work area
Figure 36: Worker removing trash from work area.

Figure 37: Washing station for workers
Figure 37: Washing station for workers.

Potential Hazards:

Some operations expose employees to biological hazards from sewage and human waste, fungi and molds, and decomposing organic products.

  • Collection, holding, and transfer (CHT) tanks, which workers are often required to enter and clean, may contain dangerous, even fatal, levels of hydrogen sulfide or other toxic gases, which are products of decomposing human waste.
  • Toxic spores inhaled from fungi and molds growing on grain and lumber may pose an inhalation hazard.

Requirements and Example Solutions:

  • Employees shall be trained to recognize the potential hazards, use proper work practices, recognize adverse health effects, and understand the physical signs and reactions related to exposures. They shall also be trained to select and use appropriate PPE. [29 CFR 1915.12(d)(2) and 29 CFR 1915.1200]
  • Personal hygiene practices must be encouraged, such as: [29 CFR 1915.88
    • Decontamination (removal of biological matter from PPE and equipment)
    • Showers (removal of biological matter from the worker) [29 CFR 1915.88(f)]
    • Proper disposal of laundry/coveralls (prevention of exposure to others)

Additional Resources:

  • Maritime Labor/Industry recommends having a Bloodborne Pathogens program.
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Limited Access Hazards
Figure 38: Improper practice - Access to confined space blocked by ventilation hoses. (Improper practice if only access.)
Figure 38: Improper practice - Access to confined space blocked by ventilation hoses. (Improper practice if only access.)

Figure 39: Ventilation covers and access
Figure 39: Ventilation covers and access.

Potential Hazards:

When working in confined or enclosed spaces, egress may be blocked by:

  • Improperly located equipment
  • Ventilation ducts and hoses running through the opening

Requirements and Example Solutions:

  • When employees work in confined or enclosed spaces with limited access, the access must not be blocked or impeded by ventilation ducts, hoses, or other equipment. [29 CFR 1915.76(b)(2)]
  • More than one means of access must be provided where practical. [29 CFR 1915.76(b)(1)]
  • Additional openings should be considered for ducts, hoses, and other equipment.
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Slip and Trip Hazards
Figure 40: Temporary explosion-proof lighting reduces tripping hazards
Figure 40: Temporary explosion-proof lighting reduces tripping hazards.

Figure 41: Tripping hazards eliminated by raised walkway
Figure 41: Tripping hazards eliminated by raised walkway.

Potential Hazards:

Workers performing barge cleaning operations are exposed to slippery working surfaces and tripping hazards. This places workers at risk of:

  • Slipping off oily and greasy ladders
  • Slipping and falling on oily decks
  • Tripping over equipment, hoses, and vessel structures

Requirements and Example Solutions:


Additional Resources:

Figure 42: Slippery surfaces created while washing barge deck
Figure 42: Slippery surfaces created while washing barge deck.

Figure 43: Tripping hazard eliminated by proper storage of hoses
Figure 43: Tripping hazard eliminated by proper storage of hoses.

Figure 44: Use slip-resistant ramp
Figure 44: Use slip-resistant ramp.

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Work Environment Temperature Related Hazards
Figure 45: Workers in protective suits are at higher risk of heat stress
Figure 45: Workers in protective suits are at higher risk of heat stress.

Potential Hazards:

Extreme environmental hazards include temperature, humidity, and air movement within the work area. A combination of PPE use, heat-producing equipment, work activity, and environmental conditions can cause temperature-related illnesses.

Heat-related illnesses include:

  • Heat Stress
  • Heat Stroke
  • Heat Cramps
  • Dehydration

Cold-related illnesses include:

  • Hypothermia
  • Frostbite

Additional Resources:

Example Solutions:

Maritime Labor/Industry recommends the following for heat-related illnesses:

  • Plenty of fluids
  • Frequent breaks
  • Ice vest
  • Shaded or cooled break areas
  • Ventilation
  • Awareness training

Maritime Labor/Industry recommends the following for cold-related illnesses:

  • Appropriate insulated PPE
  • Warming areas for breaks
  • Awareness training
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High-Pressure Hazards
Figure 46: Washing inside of fuel barge
Figure 46: Washing inside of fuel barge.

Figure 47: Workers exposed to hazards of high pressure water
Figure 47: Workers exposed to hazards of high pressure water.

Figure 48: Worker washing barge deck with high pressure water
Figure 48: Worker washing barge deck with high pressure water.

Figure 49: Hoses and connections should be inspected
Figure 49: Hoses and connections should be inspected.

Potential Hazards:

The use of high-pressure cleaning equipment may expose the operator and other workers in the area to the following hazards:

  • Contact with high-pressure steam, water, or air streams from cleaning equipment
  • Contact by uncontrolled high-pressure hoses
  • Contact with steam, water, or air leaks in the high-pressure equipment

Injuries associated with these hazards include:

  • Loss of body parts such as fingers, hands, toes, etc.
  • Lacerations
  • Burns
  • Loss of sight
  • Infections from water and debris trapped under the skin

Requirements and Example Solutions:

  • Steam guns must be insulated to prevent heat burns to the operator. [29 CFR 1915.33(e)]
  • Appropriate PPE shall be used. [29 CFR 1915.152]
  • Access to the area should be controlled.
  • Hoses and connections should be inspected before each use.
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Electrical Hazards
Figure 50: Improper practice - Damaged electrical cable poses shock hazard
Figure 50: Improper practice - Damaged electrical cable poses shock hazard.

Figure 51: Portable power tools must be grounded or double insulated
Figure 51: Portable electric tools must be grounded or double insulated.

Figure 52: Temporary lights should be inspected before use
Figure 52: Temporary lights should be inspected before use.

Potential Hazards:

Employees who work with or around electrical equipment in wet or damp locations have an increased risk of getting shocked or electrocuted due to:

  • Exposed energized electrical parts
  • Open lighting parts (such as broken bulbs, exposed conductors)
  • Damaged insulation on power cords

Electrical equipment (unless this equipment is explosion proof or intrinsically safe) must not be used on hot barges until they are gas free (such as barges that have contained flammable/combustible material including gasoline, methanol, styrene, toluene, etc.). Non-explosion proof or non-intrinsically safe electrical equipment may be used on a barge after it has been determined the barge is gas-free.
[29 CFR 1915.36]

Note: Arcing and spark producing tools are not to be used where flammable liquids are capable of creating a flammable atmosphere.  [29 CFR 1915.36]

Requirements and Example Solutions:

  • Portable electric tools must be grounded or double insulated. [29 CFR 1915.132(a)]
  • Temporary lighting must be grounded. [29 CFR 1915.92(c)]
  • Power and lighting cables must be inspected by a person competent to evaluate electrical hazards. (Note: This is not the Shipyard Competent Person). [29 CFR 1915.36(a)(5)]
  • All electrical tools or equipment should undergo a visual inspection before use.
  • All portable electric hand tools and temporary lighting systems should use Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI).
  • Electrical tools and equipment should correspond with the requirements of the job.
  • Electrical equipment and tools should be used with proper circuit protection for the voltage and amperage used.
  • Only qualified electricians should attempt repair of electrical tools and equipment in use.
  • A Ground Assurance Program should be in place for all electrical tools and equipment used including:
    • Records of tools inspected and repaired
    • Records of electrical boxes inspected and repaired
    • Records of electrical extension cords inspected and repaired
    • Recall of records of the above
  • The requirements of the Ground Assurance Program should be performed on a regular basis.
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