Section I: Vehicular Accidents
Summary No. 5 - Container Ship Unloading/Transfer Operations
Employees were exposed to the hazard of being struck by a container truck operating in a high traffic area on a dock.
Cranes were used to unload and transfer containers from a vessel to trucks equipped with container chassis.
Activity at time of incident:
A longshoreman was working in the "safety lane" between two truck lanes at the dock when he fell into the adjacent truck lane.
Three cranes are used to transfer containers from a container ship to trucks equipped with container chassis. There are three parallel truck lanes, each about 10 feet wide. Each lane is served by a separate crane: the north lane is used for offloading the bow section of the vessel, the middle lane is used for offloading the vessel's middle section, and the south lane serves the vessel's stern. In between each lane there is a three-foot wide corridor (called a "safety lane"), which is used by longshoremen working on the ground between the trucks and is also used for storing twistlocks. The purpose of the safety lanes is to prevent truck drivers from inadvertently crossing over into another truck lane. The four longshoreman are placing and removing twist locks under the containers.
Three crews are working simultaneously, each unloading a separate section of the vessel. There are four longshoremen per crew, two at each end of the truck, and one checker for each crew who maintains contact with the crane operator via radio to give instructions should there be any problems with the positioning of the containers or twistlocks. Another crew member gives signaled instructions to the crane operator. Each crew also has six truck drivers. Drivers maintain a distance of 3 to 10 feet between the trucks in each lane. The trucks generally move at 5 mph and travel in one direction. The checker works in this space to document the container number and check on the contents of the container.
A longshoreman was working in the north lane installing a twistlock on a container. At the time of the incident, he had signaled a truck driver in the middle lane to proceed past him. As the truck passed him, the longshoreman apparently slipped or tripped and fell into the path of the rear section of the truck. He was killed after being struck by the rear wheel of the chassis.
There were no eyewitnesses to the incident, and the exact cause of the victim's fall is not known. There was some speculation that he tripped on the twistlocks that were on the ground and fell into the rear wheels of the moving chassis.
Supervisors had not received formal training in accident prevention. Moreover, vehicles were crowded on the dock, so that a distance of 3 to 10 feet was maintained between vehicles parked in the lanes during loading and discharging operations rather than the required minimum distance of 20 feet between vehicles.
Applicable Standards and Control Measures
- 29 CFR 1917.11(a): Housekeeping. "Active work areas shall be kept free of equipment and materials not in use, and clear of debris, projecting nails, strapping and other sharp objects not necessary for the work in progress."
Although the exact cause of the longshoreman's fall is not known, this hazard may have been prevented if the safety lanes had been kept clear of all materials, such as twistlocks, that posed tripping hazards to the longshoremen working on the ground.
- 29 CFR 1917.27(b)(1): Personnel - Supervisory accident prevention proficiency. "After October 3, 1985 immediate supervisors of cargo-handling operations of more than five (5) persons shall satisfactorily complete a course in accident prevention. Employees newly assigned to supervisory duties after that date shall be required to meet the provisions of this paragraph within ninety (90) days of such assignment."
This accident may have been prevented if the employer had provided accident awareness training to supervisors in accordance with 29 CFR 1917.27(b)(1), including the following topics: safety responsibility and authority, elements of accident prevention, and recognition of longshoring hazards.
This accident may also have been prevented if housekeeping had been emphasized and the dock cleared of twist locks and other tripping hazards.