Employees were exposed to the hazard of being struck by improperly secured cargo suspended in a sling attached to a vessel mounted crane's spreader bar.


Stevedoring employees are offloading a cargo of aluminum T - bars using synthetic web slings rigged to a crane's spreader bar.

Activity at time of incident:

A load of four aluminum bars was suspended in a sling above the cargo hold while an employee was working in the hold directly beneath the load.

Incident Description


Longshoremen are offloading aluminum bars from holds in a cargo ship, using lifting pans attached to a crane. Aware that the lifting pans are not properly certificated or inspected, the general manager orders the crews to quickly remove the lifting pans and to switch to a system utilizing four suspended synthetic slings rigged to the crane's spreader bar. The crew in this hold, which consists of a foreman and three laborers, are inexperienced in rigging loads using slings but they attempt it anyway.


At the time of the incident, the crane operator was hoisting the spreader bar which supported four individually slung aluminum T-bars. Each bar weighed approximately 1,300 pounds. Once the load cleared the top of the hatch, the crane operator began to laterally swing the load toward the pier. As the load moved to the side, the last T-bar slipped from its sling and fell back into the hold. The T-bar fell about 27 feet down into the hold, and either directly hit the employee in the hold, or glanced off another T-bar before hitting the employee, who was killed instantly.

Relevant Factors:

No one in hold was qualified by training or experience to attach such a load to the slings or to supervise the rigging. The load was not properly slung, and employees were not clear of the load while it was being lifted. No formal special training was provided regarding handling various types of cargo, and metal products can be slippery and difficult to handle.

No members of the rigging crew involved in the fatality were present at the planning session where the use of the synthetic sling and spreader bar system was demonstrated.

The lifting pans were the preferred method of removing the T bars from the vessel, and should have been tested and certified in lieu of using synthetic slings.

Three of the synthetic slings were found to have snags, tears and cuts. In addition to the cargo handling gear hazards, numerous other hazards existed. Electrical hazards were found, involving temporary wiring, unapproved use and installations of electrical equipment, and extension cords. Blocked and unmarked exits, machine guarding hazards, and fall hazards also existed.

Applicable Standards and Control Measures

  • 29 CFR 1918.81(a): Slinging. "Drafts shall be safely slung before being hoisted. Loose dunnage or debris hanging or protruding from loads shall be removed."
  • 29 CFR 1918.81(k): Slinging. "The employer shall require that employees stay clear of the area beneath overhead drafts or descending lifting gear."
  • 29 CFR 1918.61(a): General - Employer provided gear inspection. "All gear and equipment provided by the employer shall be inspected by the employer or designated person before each use and, when appropriate, at intervals during its use, to ensure that it is safe. Any gear that is found upon such inspection to be unsafe shall not be used until it is made safe."
  • 29 CFR 1918.61(b)(1): General - Safe working load. " The safe working load of gear as specified in 1918.61 through 1918.66 shall not be exceeded."
  • 29 CFR 1918.61(b)(2): General - Safe working load. "All cargo handling gear provided by the employer with a safe working load greater than five short tons (10,000 lbs. or 4.54 metric tons) shall have its safe working load plainly marked on it."
  • 29 CFR 1918.61(d): General - Certification. " The employer shall not use any material handling device listed in paragraphs (f) and (g) of this section until the device has been certificated, as evidenced by current and valid documents attesting to compliance with the requirements of paragraph (e) of this section."
  • 29 CFR 1918.61(f)(1): General - Special gear. "Special stevedoring gear provided by the employer, the strength of which depends upon components other than commonly used stock items such as shackles, ropes, or chains, and that has a Safe Working Load (SWL) greater than five short tons (10,000 lbs. or 4.54 metric tons) shall be inspected and tested as a unit before initial use (see Table A in paragraph (f)(2) of this section). In addition, any special stevedoring gear that suffers damage necessitating structural repair shall be inspected and retested after repair and before being returned to service."
  • 29 CFR 1918.62(g)(2): Miscellaneous auxiliary gear - Synthetic web slings. "Synthetic web slings shall be removed from service if they exhibit any of the following defects:
    • (g)(2)(i): Acid or caustic burns;
    • (g)(2)(ii): Melting or charring of any part of the sling surface;
    • (g)(2)(iii): Snags, punctures, tears or cuts;
    • (g)(2)(iv): Broken or worn stitches;
    • (g)(2)(vi): Display of visible warning threads or markers designed to indicate excessive wear or damage."

This hazard could have been prevented if the employer had properly inspected, tested, and certified its equipment or had instructed and supervised its employees in the proper selection method of attaching a sling to an aluminum T-bar. The hazard may have also been prevented if the employer had ensured that employees remain clear of a suspended load at all times and that employees were properly trained in rigging methods prior to performing the operations. The employer should also have ensured that:

  • All lifting pans and spreader bars were properly tested, inspected, and certificated;
  • All lifting pans and spreader bars were properly marked with the safe working load; and
  • Synthetic web slings were properly inspected and removed from service when defects were found.