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Deck Barge Requirements

USCG Tugboat pushing a barge
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As we mentioned in the introduction, a deck barge is used to carry deck cargo and is also used in the marine construction industry for such work as pier or bulkhead construction, dredging, bridge construction and maintenance, and marine oil service. These types of vessels are not self-propelled.

Applicable Regulations

For construction barges underway and other "uninspected vessels," the U.S. Coast Guard oversees fire and lifesaving equipment and overall navigational matters. . Its regulations for uninspected vessels are found in the Code of Federal Regulations, 46 CFR Part 25.

(OSHA) exercises its authority to regulate employers for all working conditions not covered by U.S. Coast Guard regulations on these vessels, provided that the vessel is in the geographic jurisdiction of OSHA. OSHA regulations that apply are in 29 CFR Part 1910, with the following exceptions:

Where OSHA Has Jurisdiction

Barge being raised after a collision on the Mississippi River.
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OSHA has safety and health coverage over working conditions of employees on vessels and facilities on or adjacent to U.S. navigable waters and the Outer Continental Shelf.

Navigable Waters of the United States (U.S. navigable waters) includes State territorial seas and U.S. inland waters (i.e., all rivers, tributaries, lakes, bays, and sounds shoreward of the territorial sea baseline) that:

  1. are subject to tidal influence, or
  2. are or have been used for interstate or foreign commerce [33 CFR Part 2].

The U.S. Coast Guard is the agency responsible for making any determination of whether a body of water is considered to be U.S. navigable waters.

Where are the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Lands?

Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Lands
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The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Lands are considered to be:

  • the submerged subsoil and seabed lying seaward and outside of the lands beneath navigable waters of the United States (U.S. inland waters, and State territorial seas) subject to the jurisdiction of the United States
  • all artificial islands, and all installations and other devices permanently or temporarily attached to the seabed, which may be erected thereon to explore for, develop, or produce resources therefrom, or any installation or other device (other than a ship or vessel) to transport such resources

OSHA Regulations That Apply to Barge Safety


An employer who is an owner, charterer, managing operator, or agent in charge of an uninspected vessel (including deck barges) may be cited for hazards to which any of their employees are exposed if the hazard is not regulated by the U.S. Coast Guard.

OSHA standards and requirements apply as follows:

  • Section 5(a)(1) contains the general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) for recognized hazardous situations that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to the employees of the employer to be cited, for which there are no specific OSHA standards or U.S. Coast Guard regulations.
  • 29 CFR Part 1910 details the general working conditions not otherwise regulated, such as the working conditions on uninspected vessels that are not addressed by U.S. Coast Guard regulations
  • 29 CFR Part 1915 is for information regarding ship repair, shipbuilding and shipbreaking (including 29 CFR Part 1910 requirements applicable to shipyards).
  • 29 CFR Part 1917 is for marine terminal operations.
  • 29 CFR Part 1918 is for longshoring operations.
  • 29 CFR Part 1919 is for cargo handling gear.
  • 29 CFR Part 1926 is for marine construction activities.

OSHA Enforcement Depends on the Work Activity

Generally, when considering enforcement of safety on deck barges, the applicable OSHA standard depends on the work activity taking place. For example, a vessel may be loading and unloading cargo at a marine terminal while at the same time the vessel is undergoing ship repairs. OSHA would enforce safety as follows:

  • The cargo handling work activity shore-side is regulated by the Marine Terminals Standards (29 CFR Part 1917) and on the vessel (ship) by the Longshoring Standards (29 CFR Part 1918).
  • However, the work activity for the vessel repairs are regulated by the Shipyard Employment Standards (29 CFR Part 1915), even though the repairs are being conducted at a marine terminal instead of a shipyard facility.
MSHA investigated a fatality when a worker, who was not wearing a life vest, fell into river.

Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) Enforcement

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has authority over the loading/unloading of coal or other minerals into/out-of barges or vessels in the extraction, preparation, or milling process.

MSHA does not have authority once the vessel is loaded/unloaded and is underway. Likewise, MSHA authority extends to barges and vessels used in mineral dredging operations, such as mining sand and gravel from underwater deposits, and includes the loading/unloading of such barges/vessels.



Training is an essential part of every employer’s safety and health program for protecting employees from injuries and illnesses. Many OSHA standards require employers to train employees in the safety and health aspects of their jobs. Other OSHA standards make it the employer’s responsibility to limit certain job assignments to employees who are certified, competent, or qualified—that is, to employees who have received training either on-site or off-site.

Designated personnel are selected or assigned by the employer as having the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs), and therefore qualified to perform specific duties.

Training Topics


To control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury, employees must be properly trained in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions. Employees should also be familiar with the company’s policies, rules, and regulations set forth by OSHA and the U.S. Coast Guard that are applicable to their work environment.

Some of the general safety topics to be addressed in training for employees on deck barges are:

  • Employee Emergency Plans
  • Medical Services and First Aid
  • Explosive and Other Dangerous Atmospheres
  • Fire Protection and Prevention
  • Handling and Storage of Materials
  • Machinery and Machine Guarding
  • Toxic and Hazardous Substances
  • Storage of Gases and Fuels
  • Gear and Equipment for Rigging and Material Handling
  • Tools and Related Equipment
  • Stairways, ladders and fall protection
  • Work on or in the Vicinity of Radar and Radio
  • Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices
  • The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout)
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Procedures for Securing Barges to Tugs
  • Noise and Hearing Conservation

Specific Training


The training should address the specific hazards faced by employees on barges such as:

  • ways to prevent overboard incidents
  • the use of personal flotation devices
  • awareness of the risks of carelessness/distractions while working on deck or overextending oneself
  • employee emergency plans must include man overboard rescue procedures and drills
  • for spud winch operators, the use of spud securing pins before a barge is moved to a different worksite
A deck engineer on barge died when struck by crane counterweight in Washington State.
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Accident Summary

A deck engineer died when she was struck by the counterweight of a barge mounted crane/derrick. The deck engineer (victim) and a crane operator, both employees of a marine construction company, were working from a crane/derrick barge in support of a crew working at a job site on a project to replace pilings underneath a pier. She was welding repairs to a guard railing on the barge’s upper deck when the crane operator rotated the crane to make a pick of pilings from the water. The crane’s counterweight struck her in the head and neck, pinning her against the railing.


Examining Fatal Shipyard Accidents. This DOL video depicts actual fatal accidents, examines what went wrong and shows subsequent hazard abatement recommendations. Shows hazards in these categories: cranes, confined space, fall hazards, improper use of equipment, drowning, and lockout/tagout. Animated, but graphic.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Which of the following is true about deck barges?

2. For construction barges underway and other uninspected vessels, the U.S. Coast Guard oversees _____.

3. The U.S. Coast Guard would inspect which of the following on uninspected vessels?

4. Which of the following training topics should be given to spud winch operators?

5. Employee emergency plan training for barge workers must include _____.

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.