Dredger vessels are specialized ships with equipment used to perform a specific task. Dredging means excavating sediments from the bottom of a water way and placing those sediments elsewhere. This could be done to make an area of water more navigable for ships, to counteract erosion of beaches, to harvest shellfish, or for other reasons.
As with any maritime job, working on a dredger vessel comes with risks. Although these ships typically stay close to shore, or may even work in rivers only, they can still have accidents that lead to injuries and fatalities. The dredging equipment is large and powerful. Many accidents have been caused by malfunctioning or misused equipment. If you work on a dredger, know that you have rights in the event that you are injured on the job, and that your employer is supposed to take all reasonable steps to prevent those injuries.
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The Work of Dredging
Dredging work is hard work with long hours and requires skilled workers to operate complicated machinery. If anything goes wrong in this process, accidents can easily occur and people can and do get hurt. Dredgers come in a variety of sizes and styles and are used for varied purposes. These purposes include building a new harbor, maintaining navigable waterways, reclaiming land or rebuilding beaches, preventing floods, harvesting natural resources, cleaning out trash or debris, and harvesting shellfish. All ships used for these purposes have in common that they dredge bottom sediments using big equipment:
- A suction dredger is like a large vacuum that sucks up sediments and spits them out. There are several different styles and sizes of suction dredging equipment.
- Bucket dredgers use a mechanical bucket to lift out sediments. These are powerful and can be used to clear out coral reefs for shipping channels.
- A water injection dredger injects a jet of water to blast sediment from the bottom of a waterway.
- A bed leveler is a dredger that uses a blade to level out bottom sediments.
- Fishing dredgers use a chain-link bucket or scoop to pick up clams, oysters, and other shellfish from the bottom sediments.
A dredger can be a dangerous place to work for all the same reasons that other ships are risky workplaces. If you work aboard a dredger you are at risk of falling overboard, drowning, or hypothermia. You are at risk of being injured because of poor training of crew members or because of a lack of safety precautions, training, or equipment.
You may be at risk of sustaining an injury because of fatigue caused by tough working conditions and long hours. Like any ship, a dredger could collide with another ship or a structure, or capsize and lead to injuries and fatalities. Any of these accidents and injuries can occur aboard a dredger, especially if there is negligence involved.
What makes dredgers unique as compared to the risks posed by all ships is the dredging equipment itself. This equipment is large and powerful and can cause injuries and deaths when something goes wrong. Many dredgers include a crane, which lifts the sediments up from the water after being dredged. If the crane fails, the material it carries could fall on to dredger workers and cause serious injuries or even deaths.
Dredging equipment can also knock into workers if it malfunctions or isn’t being operated correctly. This can lead to a worker being injured. He or she may suffer bruises, broken bones, cuts, lost limbs, or head or back injuries. A hit from the equipment can also cause a worker to fall overboard where the risk of drowning is very real.
Dredging equipment can be operated safely and accidents may still happen, however many accidents could have been prevented. Preventative measures include keeping equipment maintained, making sure it is in good working order and doesn’t need to be repaired, training all workers to be able to use it correctly, and ensuring that safety routines and equipment are up to date.
Examples of Dredger Accidents
In 2014 a dredger accident occurred on the Delaware River, injuring a 67 year old worker. The accident occurred when the captain of the vessel fell over something on the dredger and fell onto a cable causing minor injuries. In an incident on the Hudson River in 2009 a dredger went over a dam and a crew member went into the water, drowning.
Other examples of accidents involving dredgers have caused various injuries and deaths. In one incident a worker lost a finger working on a stored pipe. Another case involved a worker who lost his leg when it got caught in a line. In other incidents workers were killed because of falls overboard or overturned dredging vessels. Causes of death in these cases were drowning.
Compensation for Accidents, Injuries, and Fatalities
Working on a dredger is dangerous, but you are still entitled to all necessary safety precautions. As a dredger worker you have the right to have been trained for your job and to work with other crew members who were trained. Your employer is responsible for ensuring the crew is trained in safety procedures and that all safety and dredging equipment is in working order and well maintained. If any of these precautions have not been met you could be looking at a case of negligence if you are injured.
Whether negligence plays a role or not, there are laws to protect maritime workers like you and to ensure you get compensation to cover medical costs, your lost wages, and even pain and suffering. In the terrible scenario that you are killed while working on a dredger vessel, your dependent loved ones also have a right to compensation. In either case, a qualified and experienced maritime lawyer can help. A professional can find the right law to protect your right to compensation and can help you file a claim if you feel your employer is not compensating you adequately. A lawyer can also help if you lost a loved one to this job.