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What should vessel workers do if they fall overboard?

Among the safety dangers workers aboard vessels can face is the risk of going into the water. There are a variety of different ways falls overboard can come about on a vessel. 

Whatever the cause, falling overboard can be an incredibly scary experience for a maritime worker. Their first instinct in such an accident may be to panic. However, avoiding panicking in such a situation can be vital. When one has fallen overboard, it is very important to keep a clear head and take steps to survive and minimize the harm one is exposed to until one is retrieved. 

Here are some important steps for maritime workers to take when they suffer a fall overboard:

  • Cover one's nose and mouth prior to hitting the water, if possible.
  • Be on the lookout for floating objects.
  • When floating items are detected, grab onto them.
  • When in cold water, take heat conservation measures such as taking a fetal or heat escape lessening position. 
  • Get rid of objects that have the potential to weigh one down. 
  • Keep one's breathing as normal as possible.
  • Keep one's neck/head above-water. 

It is also essential for vessels to take appropriate retrieval measures when workers fall overboard.

One hopes that all vessel operators make sure their crew has proper training when it comes to fall prevention, fall overboard safety and retrieval operations.

Falls overboard can be deadly. However, such an accident doesn't have to be fatal for it to be impactful. Falls into water can expose a worker to serious injuries and health conditions, such as hypothermia. When a worker has suffered a harmful fall overboard, it is important for them to understand what compensation they may be entitled to in relation to the harms they have suffered and their effects. Attorneys can provide compensation-related guidance to maritime workers who have been the victim of a fall overboard or other vessel-related accident. 

Source: U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "OSHA Quick Card - Person in Water (PIW) — Prevention, Recovery and Survival in the Maritime Industry," Accessed Feb. 18, 2016

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