The Port of Tacoma is a busy maritime port, and together with the nearby Port of Seattle makes up one of the busiest and most productive ports in the country. Located on the Puget Sound, Tacoma’s large port is a major center of shipping and distribution. Together with Seattle, this is the third largest port area for acting as points of departure and entry for container shipping in the country. Tacoma is also home to international shipping facilities, oil refineries, and other types of industry.
Such a large port is naturally a dangerous place to work. Whether you work on ships that dock in Tacoma or you work in the port and harbor area, you take risks every day to do your job. If you happen to be the victim of an accident at work, you need a good maritime lawyer to help you get the compensation you are entitled to under federal law.
Common Shore-Based Accidents
If you work in the Port of Tacoma, you may do any number of jobs from stocking warehouses to operating large container cranes, to driving trucks or repairing ships. All of the jobs done in a port area are important, but also hazardous. In this busy workplace environment, with thousands of moving pieces, toxic chemicals, heavy cargo, and big equipment, accidents are nearly inevitable.
Some of the common accidents seen in ports include accidents with cranes and other cargo-moving equipment. This heavy-duty equipment is designed to lift huge and unwieldy cargo, including containers. Any misstep, even a small one, can cause cargo and containers to fall or swing and strike, hurt, or even crush to death a worker. These kinds of accidents happen when workers make errors of judgment, when equipment has not been repaired or maintained, or when workers haven’t been adequately trained in the proper use of the equipment or in safety procedures.
Trucks, forklifts, and other vehicles in the port area can also cause accidents. Unlike roads, there are not necessarily any designated lanes or other traffic rules. Workers have to be careful, watch where they are going, and try to maintain order. When they don’t, a worker may be struck by a truck or other vehicle and seriously injured.
Exposure to fires, electrical shocks, and chemicals is another problem that may occur on shore and in ports. Industrial areas like the Port of Tacoma see chemicals, often toxic or corrosive, go through each day and get stored in warehouses. If these are not stored correctly, workers may suffer injuries or illness from exposure. Electrical shocks and fires can also cause injuries or even deaths in crowded warehouses and in places where the electrical systems have not been maintained or repaired.
Finally, falling is an all too common accident seen in port areas. With containers, cargo, equipment, and machinery crowding the area, trips and falls are not uncommon. Workers may also fall when crossing docks and walkways going from ship to shore and back again. Falls into the water can lead to drownings if no one sees a worker fall or if safety procedures and equipment are not in place to make a quick rescue.
Examples of Tacoma Maritime Accidents
Even with precautions, accidents in ports are more common that workers would like. In many cases, though, accidents could have been prevented. Better training, more careful treatment of cargo, regular maintenance of equipment, and good communication between workers can prevent a number of accidents with consequences ranging from mild to serious and fatal.
In March of 2013, two such tragic accidents occurred in the Port of Tacoma over a period of just two weeks. A 46-year-old mechanic died from blunt force trauma while working on top of one of the large container cranes in the port. He had been adjusting the wires ropes used to lift containers, a routine job for local mechanics. Just a few weeks later another mechanic died in an accident while working on the cranes.
In an example of a much less serious and tragic accident, a longshoreman working in the port’s Husky Terminal was working on lashing containers down when he fell. It was a true accident, in that the worker missed a step when climbing up to the deck of a ship. He fell as a result, landed on the deck, and suffered minor injuries. He had to be lifted off the ship with a cargo crane to minimize the aggravation of his injuries.
Legal Resources for Tacoma Maritime Workers
If you work in the Port of Tacoma, you may face a situation in which you receive an injury. An accident may be caused by negligence or it may truly be only an accident. Regardless, you can most likely qualify for compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. This federal law guarantees longshoreman the money the need to cover medical bills and lost wages until they are recovered enough to go back to work. You can also rest assured that should you die on the job, your dependents will be entitled to your benefits.
Whether or not you qualify as a longshoreman is something that a lawyer experienced in maritime law can help you determine. A good maritime lawyer will also be able to help you file claims, avoid common mistakes, and can represent you in negotiating with your employer, going through arbitration, or even going to trial if it comes to that. Find the best legal resources and you will ensure that you get the best possible chance of receiving your compensation.