Derrick Accidents

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has many regulations involving derrick operator certification in general and marine construction. A derrick is a type of crane. It has a pivoting arm that makes it more practical to move or lift heavy objects or goods on a vessel. The OSHA definition explains the structure consists of a mast or an equivalent, secured by guys or braces; it may or may not have a boom and is used with hoisting systems and ropes. OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1917 covers derrick use in marine terminals, and 29 CFR 1918 applies to long shoring operations.

Both of these address personal protection, including eye and face, respiratory, head, foot, and other protective gear. Hazards such as fires and carbon monoxide are covered, as are proper procedures for operating equipment and moving loads. OSHA’s regulations for derrick use in marine terminal operations specifically addresses topics like line handling, slippery conditions, hazardous cargo, and guarding gears, chains, and chain sprockets that can present hazards to workers. Crane hooks can be dangerous as well. Properly labeled controls, pedestrian clearance, and securing loads in high winds are also addressed.

Points on Derrick Safety

Accident lists on OSHA’s website include employees injured in falls from derricks, collapsed structures, being struck by equipment, and being caught between a derrick and a floor or wall. These types of cranes are often used on oil rigs, where they present just as much of a hazard to workers as anywhere else. Damaged equipment is one of the biggest dangers. Crews aren’t always aware that a piece of equipment is deficient, but someone should be designated to inspect it before use.

Workers should always know their position in relation to overhead loads. Standing below where loads are being hoisted is dangerous; a damaged winch line can quickly lead to a tragic turn of events. Employers should also consider changes that need to be made before there is an accident. Analyzing work areas after an incident can’t turn back the clock. If changes are made in advance, then incidents can possibly be avoided, along with the potential injuries or deaths associated with them.

Types of Derricks

  • A-frame: Has a boom hinged from a cross member, with two upright structures spread apart at the bottom and joined above.
  • Basket: Does not have a boom; the base (lower than the supports) is supported by ropes, which are attached to posts on the corner or side of the structure.
  • Breast: No boom, and a mast with side members joined at the top. Guys connect the mast at the top to prevent it from tipping over; ropes raise and lower loads from above.
  • Chicago boom: The boom is attached to a structure, and a mast serves as the outside upright member.
  • Gin pole: The mast can lean in any direction, and is supported by guys; containing no boom, it raises and lowers loads via ropes that run through sheaves or blocks on the mast.
  • Guy derrick: A fixed structure with a rotating mast; the boom has a hinged or pivoted bottom that can move in a vertical plane, and raised/lowered using a reeved rope.

Operator error, mechanical issues, or cargo-related problems can lead to derrick accidents. Inspections, maintenance, repair, training, and qualifications are important and are often factors in incidents and associated injuries. Violators may be liable under maritime laws such as the Jones Act.

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