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Overview and History
Written by Efosa Obariase
Fall 2022 semester began with an ERC Interdisciplinary Field visit to Crounse Corporation located in Maysville, Kentucky. It has another office in Paducah, KY. The company commenced operations in 1948 and has been focused on the transportation of dry bulk commodities along the inland waterways of Ohio and Tennessee. It currently operates a fleet of 36 tug-boats and 1100 barges and transports over 30 million tons of cargo yearly.
Photo: a Crounse barge on the river (image provided by Crounse)
The visit started with a meeting at the conference room of Crounse Corporation with one of the Port Captains, Mike Kidd, and the Manager of Business Operations and Sales, Garrett Honaker, giving us a brief history of the Crounse Corporations as well as its scope of operations.
The company is regulated to a large extent by the United States Coast Guards and to a lesser extent by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). It has a well-documented Safety Management System (SMS) and benefits from the expertise of a recently recruited Director of Safety Operations. Most of the management staff were former vessel captains or pilots. According to Mr. Kidd, one of the most prominent safety risks inherent in their business is the risk of a crew member falling “overboard “.
Following the conference room meeting, we embarked on a trip to the jetty where the tug-boats and barges were docked. We were split into two groups. Mike and Garrett each took a group to give a tour of the tug boats. Every member of the crew was required to put on a water safety vest before making their way to the tug boats as part of the company’s safety policy. The tour of the boat took us through all the engine rooms, control rooms and key areas of the boats including contact points for barge attachment. Our guide pointed out the safety devices installed or placed on the boat to prevent accidents and injuries while the boat was in operation. These include but are not limited to the lighting system, location of life vests, etc. The roles of the officers on deck were also explained, from deckhands, cooks, pilots, engineers to captain.
Preventative Measures Including Safety Guidelines and Training
Written by Kyle Siefert
On August 19, 2022, ERC students from the University of Cincinnati visited the Crounse Corporation site in Maysville, Kentucky. The hosts gave us a detailed walkthrough of their history, daily operations, as well as their health and safety measures. Rules and regulations for corporations like Crounse are put in place and regulated by the United States Coast Guard. Investigations regarding incidents occurring out on the water are also conducted by the Coast Guard. Our hosts showed us the hundreds of pages of regulations that they must follow.
Photo: an overhead view of a Crounse barge on the river (image provided by Crounse)
The Crounse Corporation goes above and beyond the basic standards put in place. They do all that they can to ensure the safety of their crew members. They accomplish this through many preventative measures. Each new employee is taken through the proper training to protect them and the crew around them. The ship crew has daily safety meetings where they describe the task at hand and any potential hazards that may come about. The crew also has drills based off of real-life scenarios that are to be conducted weekly.
Crews are trained in CPR, First-Aid, and automatic external defibrillator (AED). They have self-fill out forms to record “near misses” that Management can review to determine if improvements can be implemented to prevent an accident. The Crounse Corporation values the health and safety of its employees, as demonstrated by the fact that the Captains makes safety decisions that they feel comfortable making.
Crounse Corporation has also put funding into upgrading equipment for the convenience and safety of their workers. This includes more expensive, but light weight lines, winches (equipment which assists with moving and positioning barges, processes which are affected by wind, river current, and buoyancy). Crounse Corporation even invests financial resources in providing home comforts for employees who work on and inhabit the boat for 21 days at a time. In addition, there seems to be extensive communication between the offices and those out on the water.
I would like to thank the Crounse Corporation for hosting our group and sharing their knowledge and experience with us.
Regulations & Regulatory Agencies
Written by Aaron Riddick and Amour Dondi
The trip to Crounse Corporation facilities in Maysville, KY was an enlightening experience. Being able to learn about the barge transportation industry and its applications to health & safety management proved to be very educational. The core component to successful health & safety management are the regulations put in place by regulatory agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In addition, our site hosts explained that, as soon as one of the Crounse Corporation barges leaves the dock, it is subject to the health and safety regulations of the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Crounse Corporation adheres to the occupational safety and health act from OSHA. The main aim of this law is to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women mainly by authorizing enforcement of the standards in coordination with the U.S. Department of Labor. The following OSHA standards, which are applicable to managing Health and Safety of the operations in Crouse Corporation, are listed and summarized below:
The main role of the EPA is to protect the people and the environment from significant health risks. The agency sponsors and conducts research in development and enforcement of environmental regulations. The regulations cover protection of the air, land, and water. Our site hosts indicated that, although Crounse Corporation rarely interacts directly with the EPA, the customers of Crounse Corporation interact frequently with representatives of the EPA. Due to the Crounse Corporations involvement with river and aqueduct transportation, the United States government enforces EPA regulations with the help of the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S Army Corps of Engineers.
Photo: A Crounse barge on the river during the day (image provided by Crounse)
We would like to thank the ERC and Crounse Corp for the opportunity and learning experience.
Health and Safety Culture
Written by Ryan Bellacov
Crounse Corporation allowed us to explore the importance of occupational safety in the setting of barge lines operating on the inland waterways. Yes, those vast boats on the river delivering raw materials almost 30 million tons a year! What does it take to be Captain of a boat? To acquire a captain's license similar to a truck driver. A captain must have adequate boating experience, which most start as deck hands. A captain must pass the U.S. Coast Guard exam, a first aid certification, and complete medical screening and drug testing.
The Health and Safety Culture at Crounse Corporation was unique compared to any other workplaces I have visited. Generally, the whole eight-person crew is entrusted with the job of ensuring the well-being and safety of workers. Crounse Corporation has impressive safety protocols with several hands-on trainings throughout the year.
One hundred years ago, sailors suffered nutritional deficiencies such as scurvy. Now, like many transportation occupations, the captains suffer from cardiovascular issues related to an approximate 20 minutes of heavy stress and the rest of the day sitting and monitoring conditions. At the Crounse Corporation, the crew spends 21 days on the river with six hour shifts. Sixty thousand tons of material are on barges each day. One "tow" is the equivalent of one batch of 15 barges pushed by one tugboat. Each tow can haul 25,000 tons of good material sent to a plant up or down river.
Photo: Crounse boat in 2019
We are grateful to Port Captain, Mike Kidd, and Manager of Business Operations and Sales, Garrett Honaker, for spending the day with University of Cincinnati students and sharing what it is like to be on the river for one’s occupation.
Personal Protective Equipment
Written by Sarah Fish
Participating in my first interdisciplinary ERC field trip was a very unique, exciting, and enlightening experience. I was exposed to a variety of information, policies, procedures, and experiences in the barge towing industry that I had no prior knowledge of.
What stood out to me particularly was the personal protective equipment, or PPE, that the Crounse Corporation implements at their facility and on the waterways. First and foremost are the life vests that are required anytime you step on a barge. They utilize three different types of life vests dependent on the U.S. Coast Guard regulations or what type of work an employee is doing. These life vests also come with water activated beacons and whistles that allow for easy identification if a person goes overboard.
In addition, crew members are also required to wear steel toe shoes, hearing protection, temperature resistant gloves, and goggles as a part of their necessary PPE. Hearing protection isn’t required for every member of the crew, only those who will be working on or near the engine room/wheelhouse; the areas in which hearing PPE is required is clearly labeled and the ear plugs are provided for them by the company. Additionally, the gloves are not required at all times. Depending on the season, the barge and its tying/towing equipment can reach up to 140-160 degrees Fahrenheit or below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. During these dangerous conditions it is required for deckhands and other crew members to protect their hands while working in these extreme temperature exposure situations. In a similar manner, goggles are also only required when transporting certain materials due to the risk of wind blowing hazardous material into workers eyes or decreasing their visibility.
The Crounse Corporation practices regarding PPE are similar to and yet different from to my experiences in other industrial settings because some things, such as life vest and steel toe shoes, are required at all times in certain areas, whereas some things, such as hearing protection, goggles, and gloves are required based on the unique situation or work being completed.
Overall, I learned a lot about the safety and health strategies this company utilizes and look forward to transferring that knowledge where it is applicable in my future career.
Photo: ERC students and faculty at the Crounse Corporation
Thank you to the Crounse Corporation for welcoming the UC ERC to your facilities and providing a great experience for the group to learn about the safety and health standards and daily work life in the river barge industry.