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Slips, Trips and Falls


Slips, trips and falls are major causes of workplace injuries in the maritime industry and can lead to overboard incidents. The following are some definitions that can help you distinguish between slips, trips and falls:

  • A slip occurs when the foot skids, usually on a wet or slippery surface (e.g., ice) and the person falls backward or forward.
  • A trip occurs when an obstacle stops the foot and the person falls forward.
  • Same-level falls can be the result of an unrecoverable slip or trip. Another type of same-level fall is a step and fall, when the front foot lands on a surface that is lower than expected. In this type of fall, the person usually falls forward.
  • Elevated falls include falls from stairs, equipment, ladders, and falls through holes in decks, and uncovered or unguarded hatches.

Many factors can contribute to slips, trips, and falls on a barge. Some of these include:

  • gear and equipment on the deck
  • changing walking speed or direction
  • slippery surfaces (oil, ice and snow)
  • fatigue
  • carrying heavy objects
  • visibility
  • unsuitable footwear

Minimizing Hazards on Deck


Be sure to follow these safe practices to minimize the hazards to employees while working on barge decks:

  • Keep all walking and working surfaces clean, dry, and unobstructed.
  • Keep all areas free of debris.
  • Clean up and/or report any spill immediately.
  • Stack materials in a stable manner.
  • Secure gear and equipment that is not in use.
  • Keep stairs, doorways, walkways, and gangways free of equipment and stowed materials.
  • Secure ramps during loading and offloading operations.
  • Repair leaks from hoses, pipelines, and valves immediately.
  • Use non-skid protective deck compound and do not paint over the non-skid compound with standard paint.
  • Have de-icing procedures in place when necessary.
  • Paint the perimeter and tripping hazards in a contrasting color.

Precautions in Walking


Deck barge workers should use the following OSHA checklist to understand how to safely walk on a barge deck to prevent slips and trips:

  • Walk at a normal rate, keeping your hands out of your pockets.
  • Slow down when moving between different surfaces.
  • Do not run.
  • Minimize short stops.
  • Avoid sharp turns.
  • Modify your way of walking to match the surface, such as an icy deck.
  • Do not jump from one barge to another.
  • Do not climb on cargo, supplies, or equipment instead of using a ladder.
  • Do not step on hatch covers.
  • Avoid walking along the unguarded edge of a barge.
  • Watch out for reduced visibility due to poor lighting and weather conditions.
  • If working at night, be sure there is adequate illumination (e.g., flashlight, headlight, light tower).
  • Wear safety shoes or boots with slip-resistant soles as appropriate.
  • Keep shoes clean of mud, snow, ice, spilled liquids, and debris.

Preventing Elevated Falls

Deck barge workers should use the following safe practices to prevent falls:

  • Always maintain three-points of contact on a ladder—two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand—so that only one limb is in motion at any one time.
  • Avoid overextending the body when performing tasks such as checking sounders, checking lights, and wiring rigging, which can lead to falls from ladders.
  • Falls from portable ladders are one of the leading causes of occupational fatalities and injuries. Use the following safe work practices when using ladders:
    • Use ladders only for their designed purpose (i.e., step ladders should not be used as portable rung ladders).
    • Position the ladder so that for every four feet in height, the ladder extends out from the vertical surface at the base approximately one foot.
    • Make sure that the ladder is long enough for the job. If used for access to an upper landing surface, the side rails must extend at least three feet above that surface.
    • Make sure that there is proper footing to keep the ladder from slipping or sliding.
    • Tie the ladder to a secure object. Remember, the vessel(s) the ladder is secured to can move. Use the buddy system, if possible, so one person can hold the ladder to stop it from moving.
    • Never use portable metal ladders near energized electrical equipment (such as conductors or electric arc welding machines).
    • Keep your body near the middle of the step and always face the ladder while climbing.
    • Do not move, shift, or extend ladders while in use. Move the ladder instead of stretching or leaning to the side to reach your work.
    • Use hand lines or a tool bag/belt to keep hands free when using a ladder.
  • Fully enclosed slip-resistant footwear should always be worn when using ladders.
  • An adequate guard rail should be installed or employees should wear Personal Fall Arrest Systems when work is being performed above a solid surface (e.g., to prevent falls from the barge to the dock). Note: body belts are not acceptable as part of a personal fall arrest system. See 29 CFR 1926.502(d) and 29 CFR 1915.159.
  • Use gangplanks with guardrails to prevent falls on the dock or pilings.
  • All deck holes, openings, and hatches should be covered or guarded.
  • Pigeon holes should not be used to access barge walking or working surfaces.
Worker suffers a fatality from falling through hatch in barge.
(Click to enlarge)

Accident Summary

A cement handler was fatally injured when he fell through an open hatch on a barge while attempting to cover a dust collection hatch with a tarp. He landed on the barge floor 20 feet below.

The accident occurred because management policies and procedures did not require that persons working on barges wear fall protection while working near open hatches. A risk assessment to identify hazards and establish safe procedures had not been conducted to protect persons loading material on barges. Full report can be viewed at:



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 would NOT contribute to slips, trips, and falls on a barge?

2. Which of the following includes falls from stairs, equipment, ladders, and falls through holes in decks, and uncovered or unguarded hatches?

3. Which of the following should be done to minimize the hazards to employees while working on barges?

4. Which of the following should be done to safely walk on a barge deck to prevent slips and trips?

5. Which of the following safe practices should be done to prevent common elevated falls on a barge?

Have a great day!

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