When it comes to maritime safety, the preferred method of operations will always be working to avoiding an accident as opposed to responding to one. Accidents on the water can produce devastating consequences, even those that occur on barges who typically do not venture out into open water. Indeed, the United States Department of Labor has established safety measures through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that address the proper treatment of you and your fellow barge workers.
The most basic (yet arguably most important) is the requirement that each barge maintain basic safety equipment. Per OSHA's regulations, each barge must be outfitted with the following:
- Well-secured ramps and walkways that allow you to safely step from the barge to an adjoining wharf, float, towboat or another barge
- Jacob's ladders of either the double-rung or flat-tread type that can either be retracted and redeployed or remain hanging without slack
- Steps between the bulwark and the deck with a handrail at least 33 inches high (for vessels on which the upper means of access is flush with the bulwark)
- At least one U.S. Coast-Guard approved 30-inch lifering with at least 90 feet of rope attached, along with a portable or permanent ladder which will reach the top of the apron to the surface of the water
- Basic first-aid and lifesaving equipment
In addition, barge owners and operators must ensure that decks and gangways remain free of obstructions, and that on vessels with coamings more than five feet high that do not have a walkway, guardrail or handline, that you and others are not allowed to walk along the sides. You should also not be asked to walk past deckloads to either the fore or aft of the vessel if there is not reasonably safe passage.