Worker was exposed to being struck by a suspended container during a load-out operation


A shore-mounted container crane was used to transfer containers from the terminal to a ship.

Activity at time of incident:

A foreman was working to restow several containers at the end of the shift. The containers were incorrectly stowed and had to be repositioned onboard the vessel.

Incident Description


The foreman had just released the longshore workers after finishing loading a container ship. He then noticed that several containers onboard the ship had been improperly stowed. These containers had to be repositioned before the vessel left port. Due to a stack of containers on the outboard side of the ship, the foreman had to direct the crane operator via radio (i.e., no visual contact) to lift the spreader beam over the outboard stack and to move containers adjacent to the outboard stack. The foreman could not see the spreader beam until it came into sight over the outboard stack.


[The incident was not observed directly so actions were deduced by investigation.] During the restowing operation, as the containers were being removed, the foreman climbed on top of the next container to be moved. Although it was never determined why the foreman was on top of the container, it was possible that a locking cone had fallen out and he was going to retrieve it. It was also thought that he was merely taking shortcuts across the hatch (via the container top) rather than going the longer way around.

The crane operator had just discharged a container onto the dock and proceeded to lift the spreader back over the outboard container stack on the vessel in order to attach the spreader onto the next container in the adjacent inboard container stack. The crane operator (without radio confirmation to the foreman) thought that the foreman was safely out of the way and lowered the spreader to pick up the next container. When the crane operator brought the spreader down, it crushed the foreman who was on top of the container.

Relevant Factors:

When the improperly stowed containers on board the vessel were first discovered, the foreman should have recalled the longshore workers to perform the tasks associated with removing and replacing the containers. This would have allowed him to supervise the operation. The foreman was not wearing a hardhat.

Applicable Standards and Control Measures

  • 29 CFR 1918.81(k): The employer shall require that employees stay clear of the area beneath overhead drafts or descending lifting gear.
  • 29 CFR 1918.85(g): Safe container top access. A safe means of access shall be provided for each employee required to work on the top of an intermodal container. Unless ladders are used for access, such means shall comply with the requirements of 1917.45(j) of this chapter.
  • 29 CFR 1918.85(j)(1)(iii): The employer shall ensure that each employee on top of a container is protected from fall hazards by a fall protection system meeting the requirements of paragraph (k) of this section.
  • 29 CFR 1918.103(a): The employer shall ensure that each affected employee wears a protective helmet when working in areas where there is a potential for injury to the head from falling objects.

Control Measures

These hazards could have been prevented if the driver:

  • Ensuring that the longshore workers who were removing and placing the locking cones on the containers were not exposed to a falling/crushing hazard when working under the gear.
  • Staying in constant radio contact with the crane operator and giving him directions as to when and where to safely move the spreader.
  • Utilizing available catwalks and walkways for proper access to the container bay.
  • Ensuring that all workers wear proper head protection.