Spud Barge Accidents

Sometimes also called jack-up barges, spud barges are more or less floating construction sites. Because of this operational specific, spud barges happen to be quite dangerous to work on. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has specific guidelines aimed at reducing the risk of accidents, injuries, and even death.

Spud Barge Safety Measures and Precautions

The most important safety precautions focus on the prevention of accidental spud deployment. A few of the measures recommended by OSHA include the following:

  • Raising of the spuds prior to the moving of the barge
  • The assessment of correct spud pin placement to prevent disengagement during towing
  • Supervision during the lowering of the spuds
  • The development of standard operating procedures and manuals ensuring worker safety

Accidents and Injury Examples

Numerous jack-up barge workers have sustained injuries through the years due to the dangers linked to operating emergency construction and repair vessels.

In 1993, a worker was killed after getting caught between a spud leg and a locking pin. The employee was helping another crew member to raise the spud leg through the use of a winch system. The leg was elevated so that the worker could insert the pin needed to secure it in place. At that precise moment, the winch brake failed, making the leg drop anywhere between one and two feet. The worker was pinned between the spud leg and the pin, which led to fatal chest injuries.

A similar fatal accident involving a pinning procedure occurred in 2009. A maritime construction worker was killed during a Pine Creek spud barge accident. The Norwalk Marine Contractors Inc. worker was aboard the uninspected vessel when he attempted to pin a spud leg. Eventually, he was knocked into the water when a piece of equipment struck him in the face. The man, who had 10 years of experience, suffered a severe head trauma before going overboard. The rescue team managed to eventually recover his body.

One of the most serious accidents occurred in 2006 when a failure to secure a spud, prior to departure led to a fire and the death of six crew members. Athena Construction, the operator of the vessel, failed to require spud pinning prior to the departure of the vessel. As a result, the spud dropped into the water from an elevated position and ruptured a pipeline. A fire followed, and it engulfed the vessel. The master and four barge employees were killed on the spot. Another crew member was listed as missing.

Through an investigation, OSHA found out that solely foot brakes were used to hold the elevated spuds in position. The proper use of pins could have prevented the massive accident and the loss of lives.

Injured Workers and Their Rights

Spud barge workers are classified as seamen under the Jones Act. As a result, they are entitled to financial compensation and lost wages in the case of injuries or death stemming from the negligence of an employer or a crew member.

Barges pose numerous dangers – from slips and trips to equipment dangers, chemical exposure and even the risk of drowning. In all of these instances, a negligence claim could be filed if safety procedures haven’t been followed to a T.

Workers have the right to seek financial assistance even in the case of a minor injury. For best results, it’s a good idea to consult a maritime lawyer immediately after an accident occurs. An attorney will figure out whether a negligence claim could be made, allowing the worker to pursue compensation.

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