Maritime jobs are among the most dangerous in the world, but among these jobs one stands out as the riskiest and most deadly: ship breaking. Ship breaking is the process of taking apart a ship to recover materials to be sold, reused, and recycled. Most of it occurs in Bangladesh, and yet another worker in this dangerous industry has died in a workplace accident.
When large ships reach the end of their useful lives, they are broken down for parts and materials. Anything from a porthole to the actual steel of the hull can be removed and either reused or recycled. Ships are broken down at the point at which they become too costly to use, because maintenance costs have become too high to warrant using the ship.
These ships are taken on their last voyages to a shipbreaking yard, many of which are along the coasts of Bangladesh. There is one shipbreaking yard in the U.S. in Texas. Once in the shop graveyard, workers begin the long process of dismantling ships one piece at a time. Once all trim and equipment have been removed the workers must use torches and other tools to cut the steel hull apart into pieces that can be moved.
Deaths High in Shipbreaking
Breaking down ships is dangerous everywhere it is done. Workers face falls, accidents with torches, and even being crushed by large pieces of steel hull. However, conditions in the Bangladesh shipbreaking yards are the worst in the world. Too many workers die here because their employers do not provide a safe working environment or any extensive training in how to do the job safely. Just recently another death in the yards was reported.
On August 29 of this year a 30-year-old ship breaker was struck by a falling piece of steel from a ship and was killed. It took two hours to recover the man from underneath the steel plate, but it was far too late to save him. This comes on the heels of a report from the NGO Shipbreaking Platform that found 17 workers had lost their lives in the yards in 2016 so far, and that ten more had been severely injured. Within just one month this summer, five workers died and five were injured.
Common Shipbreaking Accidents
The most recent death of a ship breaker by being crushed by a steel plate is terrible, but it is not uncommon. Workers must move huge pieces of steel after cutting them from the sides of ships. They often lose control of these plates. Another common accident is falling, as these workers usually do not have safety harnesses when they work at great heights. Finally, explosions and exposure from leftover gas cylinders, fuel, and liquid cargo represent another common type of accident ship breakers experience.
The recent death of yet another worker in the shipbreaking industry is a sign of the fact that improvements to working conditions have been slow to come to Bangladesh. Shipbreaking in the U.S. is also dangerous, but workers are given better training, safer procedures, and safety gear to protect them. Most workers in the maritime industry have rights, but those in Bangladesh struggle to achieve the rights that many others have.
If you work in a dangerous maritime industry like shipbreaking, you need to be aware of your rights. If you are injured on the job, or if you are killed, you and your dependents have a right to seek compensation. Whether you receive a minor or major injury on the job, you are facing medical bills and potentially lost earnings. You have a right to seek the money that will help you, so rely on the expertise of a maritime lawyer to ensure you have the best odds in successfully recovering that compensation.