eTools Home : Shipyard Employment Scope | Glossary | Additional Resources | Credits
Shipyard Employment eTool: Shipbreaking
General Requirements Shipbuilding Ship Repair Shipbreaking Barge Cleaning

Access and Guarding of Work Surfaces » Access to Vessels


Figure 1: Gangway
Figure 1: Gangway.

Workers must board vessels in drydock, in the water, or from adjacent vessels. Proper access while boarding is critical because many fatalities have occurred from workers falling into the water or onto the surfaces below.

The following discusses workers' access to:




Access to Vessels Afloat
Personnel must board vessels safely using approved boarding devices. Movement of the floating vessel can cause the boarding device to move, increasing the possibility of workers falling or being injured by a moving device.

Potential Hazards:

  • Workers being injured when boarding a vessel.
  • Workers falling off the gangways or ladders to a lower level or into the water.
  • Structural failure of an gangway or ladder causing the worker to fall to a lower level or into the water.
  • Movement of the gangway or ladder resulting in injuries.
  • Workers being struck by moving material or cargo loads.
Figure 2: Proper gangway provided for access from pier to floating vessel
Figure 2: Proper gangway provided for access from pier to floating vessel.

Requirements and Example Solutions:

The employer shall not permit employees to board or leave any vessel, except a barge or river towboat, until the following requirements have been met:

  • An adequate gangway must be provided. When a gangway is not practical, then an straight ladder or Jacob's ladder must be used. [29 CFR 1915.74(a)(1)]
  • Gangway must maintain clear access, have at least 33-inch-high hand rails, be properly trimmed, and be properly illuminated. [29 CFR 1915.74(a)(2), (a)(4), (a)(5), (a)(8), (a)(10) and (a)(11)]
  • When the end of the gangways overhangs the water, it must be bridged and a net must be present. [29 CFR 1915.74(a)(6) and (a)(7)]
  • When the upper end of the gangway or ladder rests on or is flush with the top of the bulwark or hand rail, steps with adequate guardrails are required. [29 CFR 1915.74(a)(9)]
  • Suspended loads must not pass over the gangway. [29 CFR 1915.74(a)(12)]
Back to Top Back to Top


Access to Vessels in Dry Dock or Between Vessels
Figure 3: Gangways used in conjunction with stair tower to provide safe access to vessel from different locations
Figure 3: Gangways used in conjunction with stair tower to provide safe access to vessel from different locations.
Potential Hazards:
  • Workers falling while boarding a vessel due to inadequate gangways or ladders.
  • Structural failure of the gangway or ladder causing workers to fall. (See Figure 3)
  • Movement such as surging of the gangway or ladder that results in injuries.

Requirements and Example Solutions:

  • Adequate gangways must be provided for access from vessel to drydock or from vessel to vessel. [29 CFR 1915.74(b)] See Figure 5 and 6.
Figure 4: Properly guarded gangway for access to vessel in dry dock
Figure 4: Properly guarded gangway for access to vessel in
dry dock.
Figure 5: Unsafe ladder being marked with barrier tape
Figure 5: Unsafe ladder being marked with barrier tape.
Figure 6: Temporary, properly guarded stairway used to access vessel from dry dock floor
Figure 6: Temporary, properly guarded stairway used to access vessel from dry dock floor.
Back to Top Back to Top


Access to Barges and River Towboats
Figure 7: Barge secured alongside dock so workers can safely access it without using a gangway
Figure 7: Barge secured alongside dock so workers can safely access it without using a gangway.
Potential Hazards:
  • Workers falling from gangways or ladders while boarding barges and river towboats because of the movement of the vessels.
  • Structural failure of the gangway or ladder causing workers to fall.
  • Surging of the vessel causing pinching between the gangway or ladder, and the vessel.

Requirements and Example Solutions:

  • Ramps for access of vehicles onto or between barges shall be of adequate strength, provided with side boards, and be well-maintained and properly secured. [29 CFR 1915.74(c)(1)]
  • Unless employees can step safely to the vessel, a gangway or ladder is required. [29 CFR 1915.74(c)(2)]
Back to Top Back to Top


Jacob's Ladders
Figure 8: Jacob's Ladder
Figure 8: Jacob's Ladder.

Figure 9: Jacob's ladder properly stowed
Figure 9: Jacob's ladder properly stowed.
A Jacobs' ladder is a marine ladder made of rope or chain with wooden or metal rungs. When conditions are such that neither a gangway nor a straight ladder can be used to board a vessel, a Jacob's ladder may be used.

Potential Hazards:

  • Workers falling from ladders when boarding barges and river towboats because of the movement of the vessel or ladder.
  • Structural failure of the ladder causing workers to fall.

Requirements and Example Solutions:

  • Jacob's ladders must be of the double-rung or flat-tread type and be well-maintained and properly secured. [29 CFR 1915.74(d)(1)]
  • A Jacob's ladder must either hang without slack from its lashings or be pulled up entirely. [29 CFR 1915.74(d)(2)]
Back to Top Back to Top


eTools Home : Shipyard Employment Scope | Glossary | Additional Resources | Credits