Maritime work is dangerous and risky, and this is nowhere truer than aboard commercial shipping vessels. This is the most dangerous of all jobs, maritime and otherwise. Commercial fishermen often work long hours in bad weather and in rough waters. Their work requires that they use some very serious equipment and when that equipment malfunctions or someone makes a mistake while using it, accidents are common.
One of these pieces of equipment used on a lot of commercial fishing vessels is a conveyor belt. This is used to quickly and efficiently process fresh fish and other kinds of seafood. Conveyor belts take the catch from the deck to processing areas, and into and out of cargo storage. Carelessness, fatigue, poorly functioning equipment, and negligence can all lead to conveyor belt accidents and resulting injuries and even fatalities.
The Risks of Working with Conveyor Belts
Conveyor belts and their accompanying machinery present a number of dangers to those working with them. Workers who are well trained to use the equipment, who have been trained in safety procedures, and who are working normal shifts without being fatigued and with equipment that is in good working order, have had their risk of injury minimized. Whenever any of these links in the chain has been omitted, the risk of getting hurt while working with this equipment increases.
The types of accidents that can occur for workers are numerous. A conveyor belt is designed to keep moving, and there are many parts that make up this machine, any of which could fail or cause an injury to a worker while engaging in daily work tasks. Some of the common injuries incurred working with these machines include the following:
- Arm and hand injuries, including amputations and lost limbs
- Loss of fingers
- Cuts and scrapes
- Burns and abrasions
- Bone fractures
There are several factors that can cause these accidents and lead to injuries that range from mild to severe, and possibly even to death. One important factor is the safety equipment of the conveyor belt. Guard rails are supposed to be in place to protect workers from coming into contact with the moving parts or getting caught in the machinery. When this guarding isn’t complete or is faulty, workers get hurt.
Another important factor is poor training. All workers using conveyor belts should be properly trained to use the equipment. One person who is not trained puts everyone at risk. Careless mistakes may be made by any worker, but are more likely in someone who has not been trained. Workers may also become careless when fatigued. Adequate breaks and shifts of appropriate lengths are important to avoid fatigued workers and the mistakes they are more likely to make when tired.
Finally, maintenance of the equipment is important to the safety of all workers. If the equipment being used isn’t in good working order, is broken in some way, or hasn’t been given regular maintenance, a mechanical failure can harm workers. All of these factors are the responsibility of the employer. If one is missing and an accident injures a worker, the employer may be considered negligent.
Examples of Accidents on Ships
There have been many tragic examples of conveyor belt accidents on ships and boats that have caused serious injuries and even deaths. Most of these could have been avoided with the right precautions. One such case occurred in 2014 when a worker on a Korean fishing ship lost his arm to a conveyor belt. The personal flotation device he was wearing got caught in the machinery and his arm was yanked out of the shoulder socket. He required an amputation from the elbow down.
In 2012, a fishing trawler in the Barents Sea was the scene of another terrible conveyor belt accident. In this unfortunate incident the worker did not survive. He was working on clearing a blockage of ice in the conveyor belt when the accident occurred. He was working alone and his body was found later. It appeared that his jacket had gotten caught in the drive shaft and tangled up, pulling the man forcefully down to the surface of the conveyor belt. He likely suffocated in that position and because no one else was in the freezer hold, he could not be rescued. Another mistake made in this situation was that the worker did not stop the belt before clearing out the blockage.
Another fatality occurred aboard a fishing vessel in Chinese waters in 2005 and was blamed on defective machinery. Part of the roller failed due to defects in the assembly and fell onto the head of a worker aboard the ship. This seaman later died in the hospital from the head injuries he received. This tragic situation illustrates the importance of keeping machinery and equipment of all types, including conveyor belts, in good working order aboard all kinds of ships, including fishing vessels.
Legal Rights for Injured Workers and their Families
Working in the commercial fishing industry is risky, but no one should have to lose their life to make a living. Many accidents involving conveyor belts could have been prevented with good training, proper safety procedures, and equipment maintenance. If you work with conveyor belts aboard fishing ships and you have been injured by the machinery, you have rights. Regardless of negligence you are entitled to the money to cover costs of your medical care and any income you lose while off the job because of your injury. If negligence is involved you may be entitled to even more compensation.
If you have lost a loved one to a conveyor belt accident aboard a shipping vessel, and were dependent on that person, you may also be entitled to money damages. Navigating the maritime laws that ensure these rights for you or a loved one can be confusing. To help you get through it and to maximize the compensation you get for your injuries, contact an experienced maritime lawyer. This professional can help you get what you deserve for suffering and being injured on the job.