Employees were exposed to the hazard of falling into the water and drowning.


A shore-based crane is used to remove barge covers to unload grain from a barge.

Activity at time of incident:

A longshoreman was onboard a grain barge unhooking the crane's spreader cables from a barge cover when he fell into the water.

Incident Description


Longshoremen are unloading the grain barge moored at the dock. A crane operator uses a shore-based crane rigged with spreader cables to lift and remove the barge covers prior to unloading the grain. Three longshoremen have boarded the barge and are assisting with the removal of the barge covers.


One of the three longshoremen on the barge was unhooking the spreader cables from a barge cover next to an unguarded edge when he lost his balance and fell into the water. The employee was not wearing a personal flotation device, and no life ring was available. He drowned after swimming about 80 feet.

Relevant Factors:

The employees working on the barge were not wearing personal flotation devices. The employer had not provided and did not require any employees to use life vests, and did not make life rings readily available in the vicinity of the employees.

Applicable Standards and Control Measures

  • 29 CFR 1918.97(e)(1): First aid and lifesaving facilities - Life-rings. "The employer shall ensure that there is in the vicinity of each vessel being worked at least one U.S. Coast Guard approved 30-inch (76.2 cm) life-ring with no less than 90 feet (27.43 m) of line attached, and at least one portable or permanent ladder that will reach from the top of the apron to the surface of the water."

This hazard could have been prevented if the employer had placed a life ring within easy access of the longshoremen on the barge. The employer should have provided a ladder reaching from the apron to the surface of the water within access of the longshoremen in case they fell into the water.

  • 29 CFR 1918.105(b): Other protective measures - Personal flotation devices (PFDs). "The employer shall provide and shall require the wearing of personal flotation devices for each employee engaged in work in which the employee might fall into the water."

This hazard could have been prevented if the employer had required the employee to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vest whenever working on a barge or in other areas where he could fall into the water.

Other Relevant Standards and/or Control Measures

  • 29 CFR 1918.97(c): First aid and lifesaving facilities - First aid kits. "A first aid kit shall be available at or near each vessel being worked. At least one person holding a valid first aid certificate, such as is issued by the Red Cross or other equivalent organization, shall be available to render first aid when work is in progress."

A first-aid kit must be available for the vessel on which work is being performed. At least one employee certified in first aid must be available during vessel operations.

  • 29 CFR 1918.97(d)(1): First aid and lifesaving facilities - Stretchers. "For each vessel being worked, at least one Stokes basket stretcher, or its equivalent, shall be available to be permanently equipped with bridles for attachment to the hoisting gear."

At least one Stokes basket stretcher must be provided for the vessel, in accordance with the specifications set forth above.

In grain operations, the barge deck may become slippery when wet and even when dry. Barge workers should be required to wear appropriate work boots, be instructed how to walk in slippery conditions (take short steps) and to use the barge coaming as a hand grab or hand rail when walking on the barge deck. Workers on barges should not work alone. It is best to work in pairs or have another worker watching the work activity.