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Hazard

Employees climbing onto a barge from a floating dock were exposed to the hazard of falling into the water and being crushed by the barge.

Process

Longshoremen unload scrap steel from a barge using a front-end loader, a dump truck, and a crane.

Activity at time of incident:

Longshoremen were releasing the barge's mooring lines so that it could be repositioned to finish unloading.

Incident Description

Setting:

Longshoremen are unloading scrap steel from a barge, which is moored to a floating dock. The crew consists of a crane operator, two dump truck drivers, who are working on the floating dock, and a front-end loader operator aboard the barge. A laborer comes to the dock to refuel the crane. The floating dock has two ramps leading to the shore. It has 3-foot high concrete barricades at each end used as a truck stop in order to prevent the dump trucks from backing off the loading side of the dock into the water.

The front-end loader aboard the barge moves scrap steel to a location where it is then picked up by the crane, which is located aboard the adjacent floating dock. The crane is equipped with a hydraulic grapple, which picks up a load of scrap steel and places it into a dump truck, also located on the floating dock. After the truck is loaded, the truck driver drives on the ramp to the shore and transports the scrap steel to the steel mill approximately one mile away.

Incident:

At the time of the incident, there were four employees on the floating dock, including the crane operator, two truck drivers, and a laborer who was refueling the crane. The workers had unloaded most of the barge and were attempting to reposition it in order to finish unloading the scrap steel.

The two dump truck drivers were instructed by the crane operator to leave their trucks and to release the mooring lines so that the barge could be moved forward along the dock. One driver went towards the bow of the barge to loosen the rope and the other went towards the stern. The driver at the stern (victim) attempted to mount the barge by climbing up on one of the concrete barricades on the floating dock and reaching out to the barge. As she attempted to pull herself onto the barge, the barge's stern began to drift away from the dock creating a gap between the barge and the dock. This movement forced her into a prone position (with her hands on the barge and her feet on the dock). The laborer, who was nearby, attempted to grab the victim by her clothing, but was unable to hold on and she fell head first into the water.

The victim, who was wearing a personal flotation device, held onto the dock's horizontal timbers, but before a rescue could be accomplished, the barge drifted back towards the dock, pinning the victim's upper body between the dock's timbers and the side of the barge. The crane operator used the crane's hydraulic grapple to move and hold the barge away from the dock so the victim could be removed from the water. However, she died as a result of being crushed by the barge.

Relevant Factors:

The employer failed to provide a safe means of access to the barge from the floating dock.

The victim was employed as a locomotive engineer and truck driver. The task she was performing at the time of the accident was not one of her regularly assigned duties. She was not a skilled maritime worker. The employees received insufficient training in marine terminal operations about five months before the incident occurred.

The floating dock was found to be in good condition, with solidly constructed vehicular ramps and guardrails. Personal flotation devices were provided to employees and they were worn routinely. Two 30-inch life rings with rope attached and a stretcher were available on the dock.

The supervisor was operating the front-end loader aboard the barge at the time of the incident. He was unable to get out of the barge because the ladder had been removed to prevent it from being damaged by the front-end loader. After several minutes, he raised the bucket on the loader, climbed up the loader to the top of the barge, and returned to the dock. This was the only ladder available at the site.

Applicable Standards and Control Measures
  • 29 CFR 1918.22(a): Gangways. "Whenever practicable, a gangway of not less than 20 inches (.51 m) in width, of adequate strength, maintained in safe repair and safely secured shall be used. If a gangway is not practicable, a straight ladder meeting the requirements of 1918.24 that extends at least 36 inches (.91 m) above the upper landing surface and is secured against shifting or slipping shall be provided. When conditions are such that neither a gangway nor straight ladder can be used, a Jacob's ladder meeting the requirements of 1918.23 may be used."

This hazard could have been prevented if the employer had provided a safe means of accessing the barge. For example, a ramp or walkway could have been installed, meeting the gangway specifications set forth above in 1918.22(a). Alternatively, a straight ladder (designed and installed in accordance with 1918.24) could have been used. As a last resort, if there are no other means available, a Jacob's ladder (in accordance with 1918.23) could be used for this operation.

Additionally, the employer should have developed and implemented a program setting forth safe work practices and procedures at the marine terminal, and the employers should have trained employees (including truck drivers working on barges) regarding proper procedures for entering and exiting barges.

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