While working in the maritime industry can be exciting and lucrative, it can also be highly dangerous. Accidents that lead to injuries, and sometimes even fatalities, are not uncommon in people who do this work. Whether you work in a port as a longshoreman, aboard a ship as a seaman, on an offshore platform, or in some other maritime role, the work is often physically demanding, requires long hours, and comes with the risk of being involved in an accident.
Fortunately for those who work in the maritime industry, there are federal laws to ensure that payment helps injured workers to get back on their feet. These laws also help the dependent survivors of loved ones lost on the job to cover expenses. Too often the maritime accidents and injuries that are seen every day throughout the country are preventable. If you fall victim to one of these accidents, let the law help you get the compensation you deserve.
Some of the most common accidents in the maritime industry are those caused by equipment. From large container cranes to trawling winches to forklifts, equipment used on and around ships can cause serious harm if not used correctly, if not maintained, and if not repaired when broken. Another major reason for accidents with equipment is miscommunication between workers.
Inadequate Training Accidents
Regardless of the type of equipment used, when workers are not adequately trained to do their jobs, accidents are likely to happen. Poor training may lead to a worker using equipment incorrectly, not communicating correctly with another worker, or being unable to use safety gear to save someone’s life. Training is the responsibility of the employer and when it is ignored, workers get hurt.
Commercial Fishing Accidents
The most dangerous of all maritime jobs is that of the commercial fisherman. More people working in this industry are injured or killed on the job than in any other. Long, grueling hours aboard small vessels in rough waters and bad weather mean that falls overboard, mistakes with equipment, exposure to the elements, and mistakes made due to fatigue are all too common.
Port and dock workers are not immune to the dangers of maritime work. Although they do not work on ships out at sea, they face many risks on the job. Equipment accidents are a major source of injury in ports, especially those involving cranes that lift cargo and the trucks and forklifts that move it around the port. Falls into the water, chemical exposure, fires, and other accidents are also not uncommon on shore.
Falling overboard is an all too common accident for maritime workers, and more than many other types of accidents leads to fatalities. When seamen fall overboard out at sea they may never be found again and may die from drowning. Even when rescued, these falls overboard can lead to serious cases of hypothermia.
Falls are not limited to ships and fishing vessels, though. Falls into the water may also occur at docks and in the crowded waters of a port. In these cases, workers may drown, but they also run the risk of being crushed between boats or between a boat and a dock.
Head, Neck, and Back Injuries
Injuries to the head, neck, and back are among the most common in the maritime industry when accidents occur. Moving cargo in a port, for instance, can lead to workers being struck in the head. Slips and falls often result in back or neck injuries. Even seemingly small bumps on the head can end up being serious. The worst of these injuries result in lifelong health problems like chronic pain or even paralysis.
As terrible as it sounds, maritime workers are at risk for losing a limb on the job or requiring an amputation due to an accident. Working with equipment is a common cause for this, including getting a limb stuck in a fishing trawling winch or a conveyor belt. Lost limbs can be seriously traumatizing and may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Losing a limb may also mean that a worker can never return to his original job.
Maritime workers necessarily work with cargo and often that cargo is a toxic chemical. When an accident occurs, workers are at risk of exposure to chemicals that may cause burns or respiratory illness. Flammable chemicals may start fires that can injure or kill workers.
Fire and Electrical Accidents
Both on ships and in port areas, electrical accidents and fires are possible. When electrical systems are not kept up to date or are not maintained, shocks and more serious accidents can happen. Electrical systems and other causes of fires can be devastating, especially on a ship at sea. When there is nowhere to go but overboard, these fires can lead to serious injuries and fatalities.
Repetitive Use Injuries
Many jobs on ships and in ports involve using the same movement over and over again. This can lead to repetitive use injuries, which cause damage, inflammation, and pain in joints, nerves, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Common areas of the body that maritime workers suffer these injuries include the back, neck, ankles, feet, and hips.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
These kinds of accidents can occur in any industry and in any workplace, but the consequences in maritime settings can be much more serious. There are a lot of moving parts in maritime work, with equipment, people, and cargo moving from place to place. This makes slipping, tripping, and falling all too common. This may often lead to minor or no injuries, but a fall can also be into a deep cargo hold on a ship or into the water with disastrous consequences.
Many different kinds of maritime accidents can lead to shoulder injuries: slip and falls, repetitive motion, equipment accidents, or being struck with cargo. Common shoulder injuries include joint dislocation, fractures and broken bones, tendinitis, and even arthritis caused by years of overuse of the shoulder joint.
The many minor injuries that maritime workers suffer don’t always get the attention of the big, traumatic accidents, but over time these small injuries can accumulate and cause a lot of pain and discomfort. Maritime workers are vulnerable to broken and sprained bones, scrapes, and cuts just from the work they do on the job every day.
Sometimes an accident is truly an accident, but in the maritime industry negligence often plays a role in the cause of an accident. Improperly trained workers, a failure to maintain and repair equipment, not having good communication policies in place, requiring workers to be on the job for long hours without breaks, not keeping decks and docks clear of trip hazards, and making poor decisions about going out in dangerous waters are just a few of the more common examples of how negligence on the part of an employer can cause maritime accidents and injuries.
What to Do if You Have Been Injured
If you have suffered an injury on the job you could be facing big medical bills, lost wages, lost future earnings if your injuries are lasting, and even emotional and psychological trauma. If you die on the job, your loved ones could be facing all of these things without you. If you are injured, make sure you do the following
- Get medical treatment and keep the records.
- File an accident report as soon as possible with a lot of details about the incident.
- Talk to a maritime lawyer.
A lawyer can help you use the evidence from your medical records and your accident report to get you the compensation you need after an accident. There are several different maritime laws that are in place to ensure you get the money you deserve, but trying to get it alone without help is difficult. Rely on an expert and you can be sure you will get the maximum benefits.