U.S. Department of Labor
Process: Housekeeping Safety
A worker was performing general pipefitting activities inside the holds of a vessel in dry dock. The vessel had been converted from a cargo carrier to a container ship, requiring the previously guarded walkway to be dismantled to allow containers to fit in this area. The area he was working in had very little light and although he had a flashlight, it was not being used. Instead, he was following the light shining from beneath the doorway that led to cargo hold #2. The lighting was so poor that he did not see that the path he was following had an unguarded open-sided floor. As the worker was crossing from cargo hold #1 to cargo hold #2 to install lighting, he fell 19.5 feet to his death.
Analysis and Preventive Measures
Well-lit workplaces are essential to prevent incidents such as the one described above. Although the worker had a flashlight, he was not trained to use it when the lighting was inadequate. The employer should have trained workers on the importance of using temporary lighting (such as the flashlight) when the vessel’s lighting was inadequate. Furthermore, the employer should have conducted a hazard assessment of the workplace before anyone was permitted to enter the holds. An assessment would have indicated that temporary lighting was necessary for the safe work and transit of workers while installing lighting fixtures.
Where the minimum required lighting levels designated in 29 CFR 1915.82 cannot be met by permanent lighting, temporary lighting may be used in combination with permanent lighting to achieve the minimum required lighting levels (29 CFR 1915.82(a)(4)). This precaution would have prevented the worker’s death by allowing him to see that it was not safe to walk where the path was unguarded.