Dredger vessels are specialized ships with equipment used to excavate sediment from the bottom of a waterway. Working on a dredger vessel comes with risks, including accidents that lead to injuries and fatalities. If you work on a dredger, know that you have rights if you are injured on the job and that your employer is supposed to take all reasonable steps to prevent those injuries.
What Is Dredging?
Dredging is hard work with long hours. It requires skilled workers to operate complicated machinery. Accidents can easily occur if anything goes wrong in this process, and dredging workers can and do get hurt.
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Dredgers come in various 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:
- Suction dredgers are like large vacuums that suck up sediments and spit 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.
- Water injection dredgers inject a jet of water to blast sediment from the bottom of a waterway.
- Bed levelers are dredgers that use 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 risk falling overboard, drowning, or hypothermia.
You are at risk of being injured because of poor crew member training or a lack of safety precautions, training, or equipment.
You may risk sustaining an injury because of fatigue caused by harsh working conditions and long hours. Like any ship, a dredger could collide with another ship or structure or capsize, leading to injuries and fatalities. Any of these accidents and injuries can occur aboard a dredger, especially if negligence is involved.
What makes dredgers unique compared to the risks posed by all ships is the dredging equipment itself. This large and powerful equipment can cause injuries and deaths when something goes wrong.
Many dredgers include a crane, which lifts the sediments from the water after being dredged. If the crane fails, the material it carries could fall onto 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. They 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 dredger accidents could have been prevented.
Preventative measures include maintaining equipment and ensuring it is in good working order and training all workers 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 happened when the vessel’s captain 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 drowned in the water.
In another incident, a worker lost a finger working on a stored pipe. Another case involved a worker who lost his leg when he 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 Dredger 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 trained crew members.
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 help you file a claim if you feel your employer is not adequately compensating you. A lawyer can also help if you lost a loved one to this job.