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Hazard

Employees working in vehicle loading lanes on a barge were exposed to the hazard of being struck by a tractor-trailer truck.

Process

Longshoring roll-on roll-off (Ro-Ro) operations were taking place. Vehicles were being loaded onto a barge.

Activity at time of incident:

An employee was lashing a vehicle to the deck of a barge as a tractor-trailer truck was backing up in an adjacent lane.

Incident Description

Setting:

Longshoremen are loading vehicles into a barge, in a Ro-Ro operation. The barge is used to transport wheeled cargo, such as passenger cars and containerized freight that is mounted on flatbed trailers. This is a typical Ro-Ro operation involving a high concentration of vehicle and pedestrian traffic on the vessel and pier. The barge, which is approximately 730 feet long and 300 feet wide, has three cargo decks and is enclosed at the bow on the first and second decks. The vessel is open on all three decks at the stern, where the vehicle access ramp is located.

Each deck has 10 vehicle loading lanes. The loading lanes are separated by concrete curbs (rub rails), and the drivers position their vehicles between these rub rails. Each vehicle is driven into a predetermined (by weight) loading lane, moving in either a forward or reverse direction as necessary. Other employees who work in the lanes, manually securing (lashing) the vehicles, with nylon web straps, either to fixtures on the deck or to stanchions on the rub rails. Other employees walk from lane to lane, using flashlights to signal the drivers. The vehicle loading and lashing operations take place at the same time, and thus pedestrians operate in the same vicinity as the drivers of the vehicles being loaded. The first and second decks are closely loaded and only marginally illuminated.

Incident:

The employee (victim) was lashing a boat trailer to the first deck of the vessel in one lane while lying partially on the deck in an adjacent lane. A tractor trailer truck backed up into the same lane where the employee was lying.. The right rear wheels of the trailer chassis struck the victim and ran over his legs He died a week after the incident.

Relevant Factors:

The employer failed to develop and implement an organized traffic control system to protect pedestrians working in the same lanes as vehicular traffic.

The concrete rub rail dividing the lanes where the accident occurred was approximately 6 inches high and 22 inches wide. Drivers relied almost exclusively on these rub rails to guide their tires in the cargo lanes. The tractor-mounted mirrors have inherent blind spots due to the length of the trailers (40 to 53 feet). The reverse signal alarm on the truck involved in the accident was in operable condition, although the driver could not recall whether the alarm sounded during the accident.

Other safety issues raised during the investigation included carbon monoxide monitoring on the vessel, fixed traffic control signs, dock marking, and the use of traffic cones during Ro-Ro operations. However, only the citations listed in the following section were issued to the employer.

Applicable Standards and Control Measures
  • 29 CFR 1918.86(n): Roll-on roll-off (Ro-Ro) operations - Vehicle stowage positioning. "Drivers shall not drive vehicles, either forward or backward, while any personnel are in positions where they could be struck."

This hazard could have been prevented if workers were instructed to stay within the designated work area, and if strobe lights were provided for better employee visibility.

Also, spotters could be used when backing vehicles with obscured views to the rear.

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