Barges are used for river and canal transport; they are a type of boat with a flat bottom that specializes in moving heavy goods through shallow waters. There are many different types of barges, some of which are not self-propelled. In these cases, a tugboat is responsible for moving the cargo. Barges typically transport items in bulk and are commonly used because the cost of transportation with this method is relatively low. On average, barges can carry about 1,500 tons.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, around 4,000 barges operate in the U.S. The employees on these vessels face serious dangers. OSHA reports that between 1997 and 2006 305 employees were killed on barge/tow combination vessels and 379 explosions and fires occurred on barges or tow boats.
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There are more than 20 types of barges commonly used in the maritime industry.
Some of the more popular types of barges include:
Jack-Up Barges: A jack-up barge is commonly known as a jack-up rig. This platform is used for drilling oil in shallow waters. These will typically be stationed to the ocean floor by "legs" while the barge is floating.
Dry & Liquid Cargo Barges: Cargo barges can either carry dry bulk or liquid goods and will vary depending on the specific type of cargo. For example, dry bulk cargo barges will typically carry things like coal.
One of the most common ways that maritime employees are injured is due to slip and fall accidents on boats and barges. The moving vessels and the slick, slippery surfaces on the barges can make for treacherous situations, and some individuals are seriously injury or killed because of this. OSHA recommends that all maritime employees keep walking and working surfaces clean, dry, and unobstructed to avoid trip, slip, and fall dangers.
OSHA also says maritime employees need to do the following:
Workers can also avoid tripping and slipping hazards by painting any trip hazards a different color and having de-icing procedures in place for times when the frozen water could accumulate. Maritime supervisors should not allow workers to paint over non-skid protective deck compound and should repair all leaks in valves, hoses, and pipelines.
All maritime employees on barges and tugboats should wear safety shoes or boots with slip-resistant soles when necessary and should be encouraged to walk at a normal rate. It is also important employers stress the danger of running on barges and towboats and discourage the practice of jumping from one barge to another.
Employers should discourage employees from the following:
In some circumstances, a slip and fall can result in a falling overboard. All employers need to reduce the risk of overboard incidents by conducting job hazard analysis and determining the incidents on the barge that could contribute to overboard accidents. Also, employees need to look for signs of employee fatigue or a lack of concentration and resolve these issues to make sure that an employee does not accidentally fall into the water.
Barges and tow boats are normally equipped with heavy machinery. This can be dangerous for employers who are constantly working around the large pieces of equipment. OSHA writes that many employees suffer injuries to their hands, feet, and limbs because of moving machinery. Sometimes employees are pinned under loads, or fall off of equipment and are injured this way. OSHA suggests employees implement these safety precautions:
By using the above strategies, employers will be able to protect employees from many of the prevalent dangers on the ships. Employees can be injured by hoists, cranes, derricks, and winches in addition to other equipment.
Dangerous chemicals, gases, and explosive or flammable liquids can become serious safety hazards on barges. Many times barges are outfitted with watertight compartments that don't allow any oxygen in. It is important for employees to remember they cannot go into these locations and shut the doors if they want to stay safe.
OSHA explains many employees have been harmed or killed by:
Whenever there is rust in an airtight tank, employees should not go into the room. The rust removes oxygen from the tank, and there will not be enough air to support human life. Also, tanks that are freshly painted will replace the oxygen with other fumes, and any employees in the tank would suffocate. Some tanks are used to hold toxic or harmful liquids and gases, so make sure to be cautious as you approach any tanks or containers on these ships.
A final common hazard on barges is the risk of a fire.
Many barges contain flammable liquids, and a chemical reaction or an open flame may cause a fire or an explosion on the ship. That is why the OSHA says all engine fuel containers and compressed gas reservoirs should be stored properly. They must be far away from any sources of ignition. The OSHA suggests employers post the proper danger signs by these liquids and flammables and only carry the amount necessary on board.
When dealing with work that will provide a source of ignition, it is important to make sure that fire extinguishing equipment is nearby and all oxygen and acetylene hoses are attended while in use. It is important for workers to consider where the sparks fall when they are doing hot work, and to shield all fuel sources so that they are protected from ignition sources. Also, workers should prevent electrical fires by making sure all systems are installed by a qualified marine electrician and that all electrical wires are inspected frequently to look for corrosion.
If you have been injured while working on or around a barge of any kind then you can seek help from a maritime attorney at our firm. Arnold & Itkin is a firm dedicated to fighting for the rights of injured offshore workers. No matter what type of accident you were in, our firm has the experience you need in order to get you compensated. As an offshore worker, you are likely entitled to a claim under maritime law or the Jones Act. To find out more about how you could get compensated, speak with our firm.
Contact a barge accident attorney from Arnold & Itkin today if you were injured!
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