Not all accidents for people working in the maritime industry occur on ships or out to sea. Too many injuries, and even fatalities, occur in ports, terminals, and on docks. Shore-based accidents can be every bit as serious and life-changing as those that happen on board ships. What the two types of accidents have in common is that they are often preventable.
Shore-based injuries and deaths are often caused by negligence. Everything from poor worker training to lack of safety equipment or faulty machinery can cause an accident. Injuries caused completely by accident, where everything was done correctly, are rare. If you work in the maritime industry and have been the victim of a shore accident, you need to understand your rights. Maritime law protects workers like you, and a maritime attorney can help you learn what those protections are and how to access them.
Examples of Accidents
There are many different types of accidents that can occur in harbors, ports, and terminals, and many unfortunate examples. Falls are not uncommon, as workers in these areas often have to traverse walkways and catwalks, and work on roofs, cranes, and personnel platforms. One example of such a fall occurred when the catwalk a worker was walking across in a warehouse collapsed.
One of the most common jobs in a shipyard or port is related to loading and unloading cargo. A number of accidents can happen when someone is working at this type of job. For instance, when workers are carrying cargo over a walkway, falls may occur. For large container ships, cranes are used to load and unload shipping containers. Accidents can easily happen with this large equipment, from falling cargo to swinging cranes that accidentally hit people.
Shore accidents may also include those accidents that happen on a ship that is docked. Shore workers not accustomed to navigating the decks and below deck regions of a ship may trip and fall, slip on wet surfaces, get hit with cargo, or even fall overboard.
Warehouses in ports and shipyards represent another location in which shore accidents may occur with maritime workers. These are crowded and large buildings that can be the site of accidents if precautions are not taken. For instance, stored cargo may fall and strike workers. Trucks used to move cargo may hit someone walking through the warehouse. Workers have even fallen when working on the roofs of warehouses that were not properly maintained.
What Causes These Accidents?
Unfortunately, the vast majority of accidents that occur on shore, from warehouse accidents to crane accidents, are preventable. Most accidents are caused by some type of negligence. A major preventable cause, for instance is lack of training. Employers have a responsibility to provide workers with adequate training to complete a job or to use heavy equipment. When workers are not trained well, they pose a risk to themselves and to others when they make mistakes.
Safety gear and equipment also poses a problem in many accidents. Employers must ensure that workers are trained in safety procedures and that they have the right safety equipment to prevent injuries and accidents, and to rescue workers in situations like falls into the water. When workers are not given the right tools, accidents are more likely.
Another major cause of accidents in shore locations is related to equipment and maintenance. Employers are supposed to make sure that all equipment used for the business is regularly maintained and that any necessary repairs are made in a timely fashion. Malfunctioning equipment can cause any number of accidents, no matter how well-trained the operator is.
Examples of Shore Accidents
The news is full of stories of terrible accidents that happen in the maritime industry. While major disasters out at sea, like collisions, capsized ships, and fires, get the most attention, there are plenty of shore incidents reported by the news media. For instance, in 2013, a shore worker at a port in South Carolina was badly injured when a shipping container fell on him. These are large, metal boxes and the man was lucky not to have been killed. He was in a truck, and the container fell on the truck, which is likely what saved his life in this situation. He suffered neck and back injuries.
In an even more tragic incident a truck driver at the Port of Lost Angeles died when his truck plunged into the water. The worker could not get out of the truck and he drowned. His body was recovered, but he could not be revived. The cause of the fall was not determined, but there were no railings at the location in which he went into the water. Safety railings could have prevented this fatal accident. Another fatal accident occurred at the Port of Camden in New Jersey in 2013 and had nothing to do with water. A worker was struck by a forklift and it was thought that the driver didn’t see him. The man died later in the hospital from injuries sustained in the hit.
Maritime law covers a variety of people working in the maritime industry. The Jones Act protects those who qualify as seamen. Most shore workers do not qualify, but are considered longshoremen and are covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. This law provides injured workers with compensation for lost wages, medical bills, and more depending on the situation. It also provides compensation for the dependent family members of those workers killed on the job who qualify under the law.
If you work in a port, in a terminal, or in a dock area and you have been injured in an accident while on the job, you have rights. If your employer is denying you those rights and refusing compensation, you can call on federal maritime law to get the compensation you are owed. Filing a claim isn’t easy and you may not fully understand which law covers you or what you are entitled to in terms of compensation. An experienced maritime attorney can help you sort through it all and get you the money you need.