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 Date this page was last updated:  03/12/2012

West Virginia Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training

River Loadout Safety

One of the greatest worries at the river docks has to be falling into the river and being crushed between the coal barge and the dock barge.   Barges have completely vertical sides and are deep into the water, about 9 feet.  Dock workers are often working near this dangerous, narrow area while changing out empty and loaded barges and while measuring the draft as the barge is being loaded. Even a strong swimmer would not have a chance of escape if caught between the long coal barge as it floated against the dock barge.  

One company, Kanawha River Terminals (KRT), has developed a device they call a “Smash Box”  (see photographs below) in an effort to counter this hazard.  The smash box is stored close-to-hand at the river edge of the dock, ready to be thrown into the water between the coal barge and the dock barge.  The aluminum box floats and is strong enough to prevent the barge from closing against a person who may have fallen into the area of danger. 

smashbox.JPG (256317 bytes)     smashbox2.JPG (264762 bytes)     smashbox3.JPG (253866 bytes)
Smash Box in use at Kanawha River Terminals (photographs: WVMHST)

In addition to the smash box, each person’s life jacket is equipped with a Man Overboard Alert System that sounds an alarm in the tug boat and in the loadout operator’s station.  Crews are trained to immediately stop all barge and boat movements when the man overboard alarms sounds. After a quick look into the water, the smash box is thrown into the water to keep the narrow space open between the barges while the person is being rescued. Throw Rings are also available at various locations at the facility.

.Inspector wearing Manoverboard lifevest. (605097 bytes)   Man overboard lifevest.JPG (541421 bytes)

The wire ropes used to move the coal barge during the loading operations are another recognized hazard.  The rope used to stabilize the barge, called the "monkey rope" can suddenly flex inward toward the walkway along the dock. The can happen when the barge attachment rope or pulley fails.  KRT has installed heavy steel posts between the monkey rope and the dock walkway as a safety precaution to protect persons using the walkway.  For further information contact Kanawha River Terminals at the following address:

Kanawha River Terminals, Inc.
150 Dairy Lane
Belle, WV 25015

The "Smash Boxes" and Man Overboard Alert System can be obtained from:

Smash Boxes                                         Man Overboard Alert Systems
Parson's Machine Co.                            Emarld Marine Products
Ashford, WV                                         Seattle, WA
304-836-5612                                       1-800-426-4201 or 206-781-9450
(Roger Parsons)                                      (Page Read)  

Note: This is a non-promotional, informational listing only. There may be other companies which provide similar products.

UPDATE: In January 2006 the U>S> Coast Guard approved an innovative personal-flotation device which allows for quicker response and greater reach for water rescue.  The Personal Retriever is an authorized substitute for the orange or white ring buoys.  It is an aerodynamic disc made of expanded polyethylene foam. The device can be deployed by hand out to 100 feet in 10 seconds or less.   (from the GCMA News January/ February 2006) Find out more about this device by contacting: The Gulf Coast Mariners Association P.O. Box 3589, Houma, LA 70361-3589 website: www.gulfcoastmariners.org.  Or Life-Safer, Inc (www.lifesafer.com)

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