maritime injuries

Seamen take on a high risk of injury compared to workers in many other industries. Hazards specific to the job create certain common types of accidents among maritime workers. There are always opportunities, however, to improve safety for the crew.

Common Maritime Injuries and How to Prevent Them

Slips, Trips and Falls

The surfaces on a vessel are often wet, slippery, uneven and cluttered; they are also often moving. These risk factors increase the risk of a slip, trip, or fall accident, commonly leading to a fall to deck level. Severe injuries are more likely to occur from a fall that happens at an unguarded edge such as an open hold, the side of the vessel, or at the top of the companion way.

Safety Tips

  • Keep walkways free of extra debris and clutter
  • Add traction and hand-holds in slippery areas
  • Supply safety harnesses
  • Require crew to wear sturdy footwear with good ankle control and a rubber sole

Falling or being Swept Overboard

When a seaman falls off a vessel between a ship and a quayside carry or is swept into the sea, there is a strong risk for hypothermia, drowning, or crushing. Rescues can be difficult and are often carried out by other crew members.

Safety Tips

  • Crew should wear a life jacket or buoyancy suit at all times while on deck
  • A rescue procedure must be in place with each crew member up to speed on the plan

Falling and Swinging Objects

A ship has multiple layers; activities on upper decks, masts or derricks can potentially cause problems for seamen working on the decks below. Tools falling, lifting tackle swinging, and cargo being lifted and moved are all common risks for a falling or swinging accident.

Safety Tips

  • Create a work practice that doesn’t allow crew to be beneath working or lifting operations.
  • Require crew to wear hard hats when working with cargo

Working in Enclosed Spaces

There are many enclosed spaces on a vessel that can pose risks to seamen because of their lack of access and ventilation. Fuel stores, cargo areas, chain lockers and access routes used to inspect ship extremities of the hull are all examples of enclosed spaces that may contain combustible or explosive atmospheres, deficient in oxygen or contaminated with toxic gasses. Risks include fire, explosion, asphyxiation and poisoning.

Safety Tips

  • A detailed work practice must be in place:
    • A tally system for entry
    • A supervisor standing outside of enclosed space who is maintaining contact with the worker inside
    • Personal alarm systems
  • Gas checking for flammability and the presence of oxygen and toxic substances should be required
  • Workers should wear protective equipment including breathing apparatus’
  • Where there are known flammable or explosive risks, all lighting and tools used must be certified as flameproof and non-sparking

Acute Chemical Incidents: Eyes, Skin, Inhalation

Many chemical substances are used on vessels including scale removers, cleansing agents, and solvents. These chemicals can cause acute injuries to the eyes and skin but also by inhalation (gassing).

Safety Tips

  • The risks by all chemicals used on board should be known to employees and documented for easy referral
  • Protective equipment must be provided to employees and worn at all times. Goggles may be provided, for example, if a chemical runs the risk of damaging the eyes.
  • Do not let workers with asthma work with irritants that could cause an asthma attack if inhaled
  • Do not let workers with limited vision or blindness in one eye risk working with a chemical that could cause a corneal burn

If you or a loved one were injured in an accident, you have enough to deal with. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times bigger with the help of a lawyer. Call the caring accident attorneys at Tario & Associates, P.S. in Bellingham, WA today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!