A maritime terminal is any port, wharf, ferry slip, shipping harbor, docks, or other areas associated with stationary ships. Maritime workers in terminals and ports are often called longshoremen, and they face several health and safety risks on the job, including falls. If you have been injured in a maritime terminal fall, know your rights under maritime law.
Types of Falls at Maritime Terminals
There are several situations in which a maritime terminal worker or longshoreman could accidentally fall and be hurt or killed.
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One such type of fall may occur when a worker falls overboard or off a dock and into the water. Anyone aboard a ship is at risk of falling overboard, but workers transporting cargo to and from a ship are also at risk.
Carrying heavy loads over walkways and up and down ladders and steps can increase the risk of falling into the water.
Falls From Equipment
Workers in terminals may also have falls that are not related to the water at all. These workers may operate equipment at heights over the terminal and could fall from quite a great height if something goes wrong.
For example, a personnel platform is equipment used to move people and cargo to and from ships and cargo freighters.
These large platforms are connected to the container spreader on a cargo crane. Falls from these platforms are always possible.
Other Types of Falls
In addition to these two most likely types of falls, workers in maritime terminals may fall in any other situations. They may fall from transport vehicles and trucks moving cargo throughout the port.
Even the buildings in a port or harbor may be the source of a fall. Anyone working on scaffolding, roofs, or equipment in storage buildings may be at risk for a serious fall.
Causes of Maritime Terminal Falls
Falls involving maritime terminal workers can range from small falls with no injuries or minor injuries to big falls that cause serious injuries or fatalities. It is important to understand the causes of falls to better prevent them from happening in the future.
Most maritime terminal falls could have been prevented. Employers are responsible for taking all precautions to keep workers safe from falls and other types of incidents.
Lack of Safety Equipment
A lack of safety equipment is a significant cause of falls in maritime situations. For example, when workers carry cargo over a walkway from the dock to a ship, there should be adequate railings to protect the worker from falling should he lose balance.
Similarly, on board all ships, railings should keep workers from falling overboard. These kinds of falls can occur when a worker loses balance, is nudged, or when another object strikes the ship. With safety equipment in place, falls shouldn’t happen.
Mechanical maintenance is another critical issue in marine safety. When the equipment that workers use every day is not well maintained or not functioning correctly, accidents can easily happen.
For instance, if a crane with a personnel platform is poorly maintained, it could fail and cause workers to fall.
Finally, human error is a common cause of accidents like falls at maritime terminals. Human error most often results from inadequate training.
Employers are responsible for ensuring that all workers have been trained for their jobs. When just one person is not trained, everyone is at risk. A lack of safety training is also a fundamental cause of accidents, including falls.
Common Terminal Fall Injuries
In the best-case scenario, a fall causes no injuries, but this is not likely. Most maritime terminal falls lead to minor injuries to the workers involved.
The higher the fall, the more potential there is to be injuries. The likelihood of injuries and their severity also depends on where the worker falls and whether anyone can assist immediately.
Common injuries from falls include:
- Fractured or broken bones
- Bruising, cuts, or scrapes
- Puncture wounds
- Head, neck, or back injuries
Examples of Terminal Falls
Falls in terminals are an everyday risk for those workers employed in them. For example, in one tragic incident, a worker died after falling 20 feet from the roof of a marine terminal warehouse.
The worker was performing routine maintenance in cleaning out a chute-conveyor system, which involved walking across the roof of the warehouse. The roof collapsed when the worker stepped on a weak spot. This accident could have been prevented if the employer had kept the roof in good shape.
In another incident, a marine terminal worker fell 15 feet into a large dumpster while working on a ship at a port.
Fortunately, the man was rescued immediately and suffered only a broken arm during the fall. In a similar incident, a worker fell from a walkway. Luckily the fall was only seven feet, and he suffered only minor injuries.
Terminal Workers’ Rights
If you work in a maritime terminal and have experienced a fall that injured you, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and more.
Many terminal workers are covered under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, a federal maritime law that provides workers’ compensation to maritime workers in harbors and ports.
If you are unsure of your rights or if negligence was involved, contact an experienced maritime lawyer to help you get the compensation you deserve.