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Barge rolled side to side with unstable load

Date of incident: August 2015
Notice of incident number: 2015173560149
Employer: Metal recycling company

Incident summary
At a scrap metal recycling facility, a barge was being loaded with scrap metal and crushed cars for transportation to another of the firm's facilities. One worker was operating an excavator on the barge to position the scrap metal, and another was operating a loader on the dock. It was noted that the barge had a list to port of more than 4 feet (1.2 metres), meaning that the starboard (right) side was 4 feet higher than the port (left) side. When the loading process was nearing completion, the barge suddenly listed heavily to the port side, and about 100 cars fell off into the harbour waters. The barge then listed heavily back to the starboard side. The excavator operator was able to evacuate the machine and get off the barge without injury, although cars and metal were falling around him as he escaped.

Investigation conclusions


  • Proper barge‑loading procedures not followed. The stability of the barge was compromised while loading the scrap metal due to improper barge‑loading procedures. The two workers thought lists exceeding 2 feet (0.6 metres) were acceptable despite having apparently read and signed off on the employer's barge‑loading procedures.

Contributing factors

  • Inadequate training of workers. The two workers mistakenly believed lists much larger than the employer's barge‑loading procedures specified were acceptable. They believed, for instance, that a list of 4 feet was actually a list of only 2 feet because they thought the high side of the barge would only have to come down 2 feet for the freeboard to be equal from side to side. Even given this mistaken belief, they allowed lists of up to 5 and 6 feet, at times, while barge loading.
  • Insufficient supervision of the work. The facility manager, who was responsible for monitoring the barge loading, was not adequately trained in barge‑loading procedures, and there is no indication he had signed off on the employer's barge‑loading procedures. The facility manager said he had not received any training on barge loading but had learned on the job by asking questions of the equipment operators loading the barge. The facility manager regularly accepted conditions that were contrary to the employer's barge‑loading procedures, such as accepting the construction of a vertical car wall and allowing lists exceeding 2 feet.

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Publication Date: Dec 2017 Asset type: Incident Investigation Report Summary NI number: 2015173560149