A vacuum service barge was used to remove waste material from the storage compartments of larger transport vessels. Waste materials recovered by the vacuum system were stored in hull compartments on the barge. The Number 2 starboard compartment was 32 feet long, 19 feet wide and 17 feet deep. It contained approximately six inches of mixed petroleum waste.
The barge was not active at the time of the accident. It was only accessible via a raised circular hatch located on the top of the deck. The hatch was 2½ feet above the surface of the deck and the hatch opening was 28½ inches in diameter. During normal conditions, the hatch remained closed.
At the end of the workday, the crew realized that one employee was missing. After an all night search, the employee’s body was discovered by two coworkers in Number 2 starboard hull compartment. The hatch was open and his body was located behind the compartment access ladder, close to the center of the barge.
The employee was sitting on a beam that ran along the barge with his feet hooked under a pipe running parallel to the beam. His upper torso was leaning back, indicating that he lost consciousness while sitting in this position. His feet kept his body from falling off the beam. The employee was not wearing gloves, hard hat, safety goggles or any other form of a Personal Protective Equipment at the time of the accident.
Republished from Marine Construction Magazine Issue II, 2022