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Equipment Operator Safety


Hazards to equipment operators while using equipment and machinery on barges can result in injuries to hands, feet, or limbs that become caught in moving machinery; head and other injuries from being struck by falling objects or moving equipment; and burns. Other potential hazards include getting pinned under a load, falling off equipment, and electric shock.

To reduce hazards from machinery and equipment:

  • Inspect all equipment before use.
  • Maintain equipment properly.
  • Shut down and lockout the power source before repairing mechanical systems.
  • Make repairs according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • Ensure that the person using the equipment is trained in its proper use and maintenance.
  • Install appropriate rails, temporary or permanent, to avoid equipment being driven off the barge or dock.
  • Ensure retaining pins are properly installed and positively secured with a keeper or locking device.
  • Emergency shut-offs must be easily accessible, and sufficient guarding should be used for equipment controls.

Hoists, Cranes and Derricks


Hazards of hoists include being struck by a heavy object, such as the boom or the load being moved. To reduce these hazards:

  • Stay clear when a hoist is being used unless you are part of the procedure and, in which case, never stand under a load or boom with a suspended load.
  • Wear personal protective equipment, such as head, foot, eye, and hand protection at all times.
  • Assess the hoisting systems for structural soundness by inspecting regularly for problems with welds, rivets, chains, pulleys, lines, blocks, hooks, etc.
  • Secure power blocks with a safety chain.
  • Ensure that cranes in use are secured to the barge.
  • Do not try to help lift a load being hoisted.

Areas that workers are able to access within the swing radius of a crane’s superstructure present a hazard of being struck by, crushed, or pinched between the rotating superstructure and a stationary object. Employers should restrict those areas within the crane’s swing radius from entry so as to prevent injury to workers.

Methods of marking the boundaries of the swing radius hazard area include control lines, warning lines, railings, and other similar barriers. Follow these safe practices to help prevent injuries due to crane operations:

  • Ensure a method of communication is established between the crane operator and other workers.
  • Do not move the crane and its superstructure until the “all clear” signal is given.
  • If a worker will be working within the swing radius of the crane, the operator should physically lockout/tagout the crane.
  • Make sure all workers are properly trained on the hazards associated with working around cranes.


A spud without a securing pin (left) is unsafe. Ensure pins are inserted.
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During marine construction work deck barges are held in place by vertical steel shafts known as spuds. The spud equipment typically consists of forward and aft spuds and a diesel engine—powered spud winch.

Three methods are available to prevent the spud from accidentally dropping or slipping:

  1. latching the winch foot brake;
  2. engaging a steel pawl that fits into a notched ring on the outside of the winch drum; and
  3. inserting a steel securing pin directly through the fully raised spud, preventing it from free-falling if the winch or cable fails.

Preventing Accidental Deployment of Spuds

Preventing Accidental Deployment of Spuds
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To ensure the safety of employees on construction barges and towing vessels, employers and employees need to take the following safety precautions:

  • Before a barge is moved, the spuds need to be raised so that the pinhole is above the resting area of the securing pin. Each spud should be pinned in the raised position.
  • The licensed master of a towing vessel, who is responsible for ensuring that the vessels under his or her control are safe to move, needs to ensure that spud securing pins are in place and have a means to prevent inadvertent disengagement before the tow is underway.
  • If the spuds must be lowered to stop the barge in an emergency situation (for example, in case of a power failure of the tug or an imminent collision), a supervisor needs to direct the barge employees on how and when to lower the spuds.
  • Before attempting to lower mooring spuds, ensure that spud securing pins are completely removed and that employees are clear of the immediate area. Such practices will help to avoid employees being struck by dislodged or falling pins, which can weigh up to 85 pounds and measure approximately 4-feet-long and 3 inches in diameter.
  • Employers who own and operate barges need to develop standard operating procedures. Employers should provide initial and periodic training to employees on barges, including how to use securing pins to hold spuds safely in place before a barge is moved from one site to another.

Winches and Cable Systems

Spud Winch: Raises and lowers spuds
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Operating or working near winches may potentially expose employees to hazards such as body parts caught in a winch drum, being struck by a broken line or cable, and tripping over a line or cable.

Be sure to follow these safe practices when working with winches:

  • Use a device or tool—never your hand—to keep the winch line spooling properly.
  • Enclose the winch drum in a cage if practical.
  • Stay off the deck unless you are part of the operation.
  • Never stand in, on, over, or in line with lines or cables connected to winches when they are under tension. The danger zone lies within 15 degrees of either side of a line under tension.
  • bight
    Areas within a bight where a person should not stand.
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  • Never step on or walk over the winch drum.
  • Inspect the winch system regularly for problems associated with general or localized deterioration, cracked welds, and other structural, mechanical, or electrical deficiencies.
  • Inspect lines and cable systems regularly, including blocks, hooks, and associated components, for signs of damage or deterioration.
  • A guard should be installed between the winch operator and the connected cables to protect the operator from potential whiplash.
  • Never stand in the bight of a line.

Accident Summary

A deckhand was working on a spud barge helping a coworker raise the spud legs using a winch system. A 42-inch pin was to be inserted into the spud leg to prevent it from falling if the winch brake released. The spud leg was raised just high enough for the employee to insert about 4 inches of the pin into the hole, when the winch brake failed. The pin came up and the employee was pinned between the pin and spud leg, sustaining fatal crushing injuries to his chest.

More Information about Machinery and Equipment Safety

OSHA Shipyard Employment eTool: Gear and Equipment for Rigging and Materials Handling.

OSHA Publication, Mobile Crane Inspection Guidelines for OSHA Compliance Officers, June 1994.


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 should be accomplished to reduce the hazards from working with equipment and machinery on a barge?

2. What should the barge crane operator due if a worker will be working within the swing radius of the crane?

3. Which of the following is one of the three methods available to prevent the spud from accidentally dropping or slipping?

4. Before a barge is moved, the spuds need to be raised so that the _____.

5. When working around winches when they are under tension, the danger zone lies within _____.

Have a great day!

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