Falls at Marine Terminals & How They Can Be Prevented
Marine terminals can be very dangerous places for workers. The presence of heavy machinery and equipment, barges and other vessels, mooring lines, and heavy containers all place workers at risk of suffering catastrophic injuries. Falls are one of the most prevalent. Longshoremen at marine terminals may sustain life-altering or fatal injuries in falls from heights or into the water.
In many terminals, personnel platforms are used to transport longshoremen to and from container ships. These platforms are attached to container spreaders on cargo cranes and can efficiently transport workers, tools, and equipment to and from container vessels at the terminal.
While this method is practical, it is not always the safest. Workers can easily fall off of the platforms while they are being transported or while they are performing some of their duties such as attaching and removing lashing equipment from stacks of cargo containers, or disconnecting the twist locks that hold all of the cargo bins together. If the worker falls to the ground or any lower surface, they may experience severe injuries. If they fall into the water, they will be at risk of drowning or being crushed by a vessel or other equipment.
Workers Must Have Safe Access to Barges & Vessels
Because of these risks, OSHA requires employers to provide safe means of accessing barges at marine terminals. Gangways, ramps, or walkways can be used to allow workers safe access to barges in the terminal. These walkways must be properly constructed or maintained to ensure their safety. Workers must also be trained to use gangways and ramps. When employers fail to provide ways for longshoremen and other workers to access barges or other vessels, the results can be catastrophic.
A dump truck driver lost her life because there was no way to safely access a barge at a marine terminal. According to OSHA’s summary of the incident, four workers were on a floating dock: a crane operator, two dump truck drivers, and another laborer who was refueling the crane. The crane operator instructed the drivers to get out of their vehicles and release the mooring lines to move the barge forward on the dock, but the female driver could not reach the rope. She climbed a concrete barricade and reached out toward the barge, but the vessel started to drift from the dock. She was left hanging in the air, grasping the side of the barge. The laborer attempted to grab her and pull her to the dock, but she fell into the water. The victim was wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) and held onto the dock. Before she could be pulled out of the water, the barge drifted back and crushed her upper body against the dock. She died from her injuries.
Marine Terminal Fall Protection Requirements
At marine terminals, workers also tend to climb on top of the cargo bins which are stacked high up off the ground. OSHA requires that employers watch employees and ensure that they use personal fall protection systems when they are on the containers. Unfortunately, employers are not required to make sure employees use this harness system when they are on a personnel platform. OSHA says that employers and employees need to be careful when they are on personnel platforms and take every precaution to avoid falls.
A longshoreman lost his life while removing twist locks from shipping containers. According to OSHA’s incident summary, two workers (called topmen) were on top of a 34-foot high stack of containers, waiting to be taken by crane in a safety cage to another stack of containers. Just as one of the workers stepped toward the safety cage, the crane operator got a call that another container was ready to be unloaded. The crane operator suddenly pulled away from the container, and the worker lost his footing. He ended up falling 60 feet to the pier below, as the 34-foot high stack of containers was on the deck of a vessel about 24 feet above the pier.
In this incident, the two topmen were wearing fall protection in the form of safety harnesses, but the hookups for those harnesses were on the other side of the spreader bar that the safety cage was attached to; they were inaccessible from the side they were on. The incident was determined to have occurred as a result of improper communication, but the workers should have also had access to proper fall protection.
Another way to avoid falls is by placing closures such as locking gates on access openings. OSHA says that these openings should swing open inwards and should be self-closing. Workers should stay away from this access opening when being hoisted, even if the gate is securely locked.
In order to best prevent falls, OSHA says that workers should install anchorage points in personnel platforms so that workers who are being hoisted can use personal fall protection systems with harnesses and lifelines. These anchorage points should be far from the entry point of the platform and should not interfere with the movement of personnel on the platform while the lift is going on.
OSHA recommends that workers store all tools and equipment safely so that they won't create a tripping hazard or become a dangerous projectile. Foremen and gang bosses should use the same fall protection methods as other employees to enhance their own safety. Supervisors should coordinate lift operations and make sure that all crane operators, signal persons, people being lifted, and persons in charge of the operation are in alignment.
Fighting for Injured Marine Terminal Workers
If you are a longshoreman or other maritime worker who has been injured in a fall from a personnel platform or container at a marine terminal, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries. An offshore injury lawyer at Arnold & Itkin can offer more information about this process, what your case may be worth, and what can be done to ensure you get the treatment and support you need to rebuild and move on. Call (888) 346-5024 today for a free, confidential consultation.