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Hazard

Employees were exposed to fall and drowning hazards while releasing a vessel from the dock.

Process

Unmooring a 500-foot vessel from the dock after unloading.

Activity at time of incident:

After unloading cargo from the vessel, a longshoreman at the stern end of the dock released the stern mooring lines from the mooring cleats, allowing the vessel to sail. This activity required the longshoreman to work adjacent to the dock's edge.

Incident Description

Setting:

When the vessel loaded with steel arrived at a terminal four longshoreman would tie it to the dock. To perform this task, a seaman would cast a line to the longshoreman on the dock to secure the initial lines to the mooring cleats. The seaman would use a winch to pull the vessel into the dock, after which the longshoreman on the dock would attach spring lines to the mooring cleats to assure that the vessel remains against the dock. The longshoring crew then proceeded to unload the steel from the vessel.

After the crew finished unloading, two longshoremen would remain to "release" the vessel from the dock moorings. This process involved first removing the spring lines and then releasing the bow lines and stern lines from the mooring cleats. The longshoreman were working within one to two feet of the dock's edge. Life rings were made available at the work site.

Incident:

At the time of the incident, one longshoreman (victim) was releasing the line mooring the vessel's stern, while the other longshoreman was releasing the line at the vessel's bow. Neither employee was wearing a life vest. The longshoreman at the stern was positioned at a mooring cleat located right at the edge of the dock, which had a crumbling concrete surface. While removing the line, he lost his footing, slipped from the dock, and fell into the water, according to a security guard who witnessed the incident. After the security guard alerted the longshoreman at the bow, the longshoreman ran the 500-foot length of the vessel to the stern end, and threw a life ring with a rope to the victim. The victim who was thrashing about trying to tread water, made no attempt to grab the life ring and slipped beneath the water's surface. Fire department divers responded and were in the water within five minutes of receiving the report of the incident. The divers located the victim near the point where he entered the water, but the victim had drowned.

Relevant Factors:

The longshoreman was not wearing a life vest while working adjacent to the edge of the dock. Life vests were available but not required to be worn.

Crumbling concrete around the cleat, where the employee was located shortly before he fell into the water posed a slip/trip hazard.

Applicable Standards and Control Measures
  • 29 CFR 1917.95(b)(1): Other protective measures - Personal floatation devices (PFDs). "The employer shall provide, and shall direct the wearing of PFDs for those employees, such as line handlers, who are engaged in work in which they may be pulled into the water."

This hazard could have been prevented by providing and enforcing the use of life vests for employees who work in areas where a fall/drowning hazard existed. The life vests must be Coast Guard approved and marked for its appropriate use as a life vest for use on vessels (1917.95(b)(2)).

Other Relevant Standards and/or Control Measures
  • 29 CFR 1917.111(a): Maintenance and load limits. "The structural integrity of docks, piers, wharves, terminals and working surfaces shall be maintained."
  • 29 CFR 1917.111(d): Maintenance and load limits. "All walking and working surfaces in the terminal area shall be maintained in good repair."

Crumbling concrete should be removed and replaced with solid non-skid walking surfaces.

Additionally, employees should have appropriate work boots with cleated soles for greater traction.

Training in mooring and unmooring vessels is also essential to accident prevention.

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