Hazards for Crew Members on a Barge Deck

A barge deck is a non self-propelled flat bottom vessel used for transportation on oceans, rivers and canals.  They transport oversized materials such as machinery, grain, coal and fuel.  Today’s barges are constructed from welded steel and can hold a capacity of 25 rail cars or 90 heavy trucks.  Since they are non self-propelled, they require tugboats or towboats to be moved.

There are different types of barges such as a Barge Deck, Hopper Barge, Tank Barge and a Tugboat, which serve different purposes.

Deck Barge – a deck barge is a flat deck that is used both for transportation and construction support.  It is capable of holding hundreds of tons of machinery and serves as a platform for holding oversized objects.

Hopper Barge – a hopper barge is similar to a deck barge except it is without a deck.  It has a large cargo bin for transporting bulk items such as grain, coal, paper, stone and other materials.

Tank Barge – a tank barge is the same as a hopper barge, but it holds liquids such as diesel fuel, gasoline, liquid fertilizer and liquid asphalt.

Tugboat – a tugboat is a steel boat used to tow and push barges and large ships with horsepower of 1,000-6,000.  A tugboat has a large squared-off bow that enables it to push barges on rivers.

In 1920, Congress passed the Jones Act in an effort to strengthen the maritime industry in the United States and address serious concerns related to maritime work.  One of the provisions of that Act expanded the types of claims that sailors could bring when they were injured.  This is extremely important for sea men on tugboats and barge decks since they face potentially dangerous working conditions.

Tug boat crew members could experience hazards such as being tangled in the steel wires while the wires are in motion or not having enough space to walk around towing equipment and falling off of the barges into the water.  Multiple barges are often hooked up to a tow boat and crew members are jumping from one barge to another, which can also be dangerous.

Ship and tug boat owners have a duty to provide their crew members with a reasonably safe environment.  According to the Jones Act, if the employer was negligent in any way, the crew member has the right to bring action against him or her if injured.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) imposes a duty on long shoring and marine terminal employers to provide workplace free from “recognized, serious safety hazards.”  Wet, slippery flooring is an easily recognized safety hazard that can be reduced by installing a slip resistant surface on barge decks.

“Tug Boat and Barges: Accidents and Injuries.” Kraft Palmer Davies, PLLC, n.d. Web.

“What Is a Barge?” Hughes Marine. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2012.

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