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Barge Accidents

Have you or a loved one been involved in a barge accident? Barge workers are exposed to numerous elements that increase the risk of serious worksite accidents. The US Coast Guard reported that 278 barges were involved in a worker casualty over the course one year.

These accidents can leave victims with serious injuries, including broken bones, amputations, traumatic brain injuries, chemical burns, and/or death. These injuries may result in extensive physical, emotional, and financial damages.

It is especially frustrating to realize that that the majority of barge boat accidents could have been prevented. The majority of barge accidents are caused by operator errors and mechanical failures, resulting from inadequate crew training and non-compliance with worksite safety regulations.

Barge employers and/or ship operators are subject to maritime law and responsible in the majority of these cases. This is a specialized area of law that provides additional protection for those who work on water vessels, including all barge workers.

Reach out to barge accident lawyer if you or a loved one has been harmed in a barge accident. Willie D. Powells III has helped hundreds of injured workers in Houston and throughout Texas get the compensation they deserve after a workboat injury.

Compensation may be due for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and additional damages only provided under maritime law. Contact Willie D. Powells today and allow him to begin building your case.

The Laws that Govern Barge Workers

The Laws that Govern Barge Workers

Maritime law, also known as admiralty law, involves an extensive list of regulations have been developed to govern barge worker operations. There are several government agencies and organizations that are involved in ensuring that maritime laws protect barge workers.

OSHA Safety Laws and Regulations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed a standard of rules and regulations that govern barge worker operations. These laws apply to machinery, worker training, personal protective equipment (PPE), and additional regulations for a safe work environment.

OSHA requires that employers perform regular barge inspections to prevent an accident related to mechanical failures. Employers are also expected to ensure that barge environments are equipped with proper safety equipment, for example, railing to prevent overboard accidents.
OSHA also share numerous warnings and protocol that employers are required to follow in the event of an accident. Employers are responsible for implementing and maintaining these safety precautionary standards.

Failure to enforce these workplace safety policies, procedures is in direct violation OSHA regulations. Non-compliance with OSHA regulations is an immediate liability in the event that a worker is injured.

The Laws that Govern Barge Workers

The United States Coast Guard is a military branch that is responsible for ensuring that all water vessels comply with maritime laws. The Coast Guard has immense number of responsibilities and governs vessels on rivers and oceans.

The Coast Guard has developed a complete list of regulations governing barge operations, including crew size, load capacities, and towboat compliance. The Coast Guard is also responsible for inspecting all barge towing vessels.

Maritime laws protect barge workers through several acts that give workers additional rights in the event that they are harmed on the job.

  • The Jones Act
  • Longshore Workers Compensation Act
  • Death on the High Seas Act

These acts give workers the right to sue their employer for an extensive amount of damages, including punitive damages, in the event that they are harmed on the job.

Spud Barge Accidents

Spud barges accidents are generally a result of worker and/or mechanical failures. Spud barge work decks are held in place by steel shafts called spuds. Spud barge workers may be exposed to equipment including spuds and a diesel powered spud winch.

There are several factors that increase the risk of barge boat accidents, including operator error, lack of boat safety protocol, and employer failure to enforce OSHA regulations.

Spud barge employers are required to have fail safes in place to prevent spuds from falling the in the event that the winch or a cable fails. All workers should receive thorough training to prevent any serious accidents while removing a spud pin.

Spud Free-Fall Injury

A spud barge worker for Marine Tech LLC was severely injured when a lifting cable broke while repositioning a spud. The spud free-falling also put tension on the deck winch cable and created a pinch point between the securing cable and spud support.

The workers foot was partially severed and had to be reattached. Four days after the accident occurred, medical personnel were forced to amputate the foot due to infection.


Safety data reports from the US Homeland Security and Coast Guard revealed that 52% of barge casualties were a result of collisions. Four barges have struck the Union Pacific railway bridge in recent years. The latest incident occurred when the Edna T. Gattle picked up a spud barge and proceeded towards the bridge.

The spud barge had an air draft of 45 feet and would require the railway bridge be opened for it to pass. The captain attempted to phone the railway but was unable to make contact due to poor reception.

Shortly after the captain was able to reach the railway but further confirmation was needed to allow the bridge to be lifted for the barge to pass. The captain continued towards the bridge hoping that confirmation would occur in time for before the barge would reach the bridge.

The barge collided with bridge due to this poor decision and resulted in extensive damages. There are no reports on the condition of the crew members.

Common Risks for Barge Workers

Common Risks for Barge Workers

Barge design increases the risk of boat accident occurrences. Barges are flat on the bottom and pulled or pushed by a towing vessel. This creates difficulties in navigation and can lead to an increased risk of an accident.

Barge workers also face numerous hazards in their daily work environments, including potentially dangerous equipment, heavy loads, cranes, hoists, etc.

Common Risks for Barge Workers:

  • Slips, Trips, and Falls
  • Drowning
  • Crushing Injuries
  • Blunt Force Trauma
  • Machinery/Equipment Failure

Many of these risks can be minimized by following OSHA and US Coast guard laws and regulations.

Barge workers are required to utilize numerous types of dangerous equipment and machinery, including winches, hoists, cranes, and spuds. These types of equipment increase the risk of serious injury and death. These risks can be minimized through daily equipment inspections, proper training, and certified maintenance procedures.

Employers and barge operators are responsible for ensuring that all machinery and equipment is properly maintained, and all equipment-related procedures are followed.

Slips, trips, and falls are the most common cause of accidents for maritime workers. Wet floors increase the risk of falls resulting in broken bones, back injuries, and overboard accidents.

Barge workers are also at risk of suffering from serious injury or death due to the high number of confined spaces onboard. These spaces lack sufficient oxygen and increase the potential of workers becoming trapped inside.

Fires and explosions can result from several high-risk accidents onboard. These include poorly maintained electrical systems and/or sparks from hot work.

Crude oil and chemicals are often transported on barges. This chemical exposure significantly increases the risk of worker harm, including inhalation, chemical burns, and potential fires.

Barge Accident Lawyer

A barge accident lawyer is a legal professional who is skilled and experienced in building cases for workers who have been injured in barge accidents. A barge worker accident attorney can help you collect evidence and handle dealings with your employer and the insurance company.

All maritime workers, including those who work on barges, decks, ships, towboats, and any other type of water vessel are entitled to receive compensation that is exclusive to the industry. These special protections allow injured barge workers to receive compensation for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and additional punitive damages.

Choose an attorney who specializes in maritime law will guarantee that you are awarded all of the compensation that you are entitled to receive.

Willie D. Powells is Houston’s choice for experienced, bold, and competent legal representation. Contact Willie D. Powells today if you or a loved one has been injured in a barge accident.

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