Accident and Injury Frequently Asked Questions
Many accident victims are overwhelmed by their injuries, and the thought of a legal case can seem daunting. At Hofmann & Schweitzer, our legal team understands these feelings, and we’ve compiled our thoughts on many common worries here to help you get started finding the answers you need to protect yourself and your family. If you’ve been hurt in a construction, maritime, or railroad accident, browse our FAQs today.
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What are the “fatal four” accidents in construction?
With the rapid rise in construction fatalities in New York over the last decade, you may be like many people who are wondering what can be done to prevent any more tragedies. Researchers with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have determined that over 64 percent of all construction worker deaths are caused by certain accidents that they are terming the “fatal four.” Here is what you need to know about these so you can avoid serious accidents and injuries.
Studies have shown that over 20 percent of all worker deaths occur on a construction site, and the biggest cause of these fatalities is falls. This problem accounted for over 38 percent of fatalities, meaning that, of the 937 total construction deaths in 2015, 364 were due to falls. These can be due to neglect, equipment failure or other types of accidents.
The three other causes in the fatal four each account for less than 10 percent of the total deaths. These include workers who are struck by an object, electrocuted, or caught in or between something. The last category includes everything from being crushed in a collapse, compressed by objects and equipment, and caught in material.
Many of these deaths were due to violations. Some of the most frequently cited issues include scaffolding requirements, fall protection, ladder concerns, hazard communication and machine guarding. This information is intended to educate you about the most common dangers and risks found on construction sites and should not be taken as legal advice.
What Are The Most Common Life-threatening Accidents At Sea?
When it comes to jobs that take place while you are on a vessel, the accidents can be quite different than those on land in New York. The fact that you are miles out to sea and operating on a large ship means you will be presented with unique challenges that can also lead to dangerous circumstances. Marine Insight gives some of the most common situations you may face that can put your life in danger.
First are situations that require a high level of skill and can lead to the loss of life if certain guidelines are not followed. This includes mooring operations, lifeboat testing and hot work. The flammable materials aboard ships can prove especially dangerous and lead to fatalities, even when you are performing basic procedures.
Next are falls. These can occur in many different fields, but maritime accidents have their own set of fall risks. Gangways can fail due to a lack of maintenance and drop you to the ground far below. Some ships are tall and also require cleaning and repair at great heights. Cargo holds can also be prime spots for a slip and fall. These falls are sometimes due to negligence and other times due to the failure of safety devices. Falling overboard during storms and accidents can also lead to death.
You can also find other dangers that involve the machinery on a ship. Boilers, compressors and crankcases can sometimes explode and exposed wires can lead to electrical shocks. This information is intended to educate and should not be taken as legal advice.
What is the Most common Cause of Shipyard Injuries?
When it comes to maintaining and repairing ships, the risks that are inherent with this profession are unique because of the type of work and positions that you are required to perform and hold. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration states that one of the biggest causes of injury in New York shipyards as well as others across the country comes from the necessity to complete hot work.
Hot work in shipyards included any brazing, cutting or welding jobs. The tools you require to complete these jobs are part of the problem, since they create a constant vibrating motion that can cause you to develop debilitating injuries over time. These can include carpal tunnel syndrome and white finger disease.
Other ways you can be injured while working with hot processes is through burns and shock. Eye injuries are also commonly reported and can range from minor to serious. Over-exposure to the elements and chemicals can also lead to long-term disability.
In addition to these risks, one of the most common causes of shipyard injury is the positioning that you need to hold while performing these tasks. Many times, hot work must be done on a vessel that requires you to bend into and hold uncomfortable positions for a long period of time. This can lead to poor posture, putting pressure on your neck, spine and back. In some cases, lengthy time spent kneeling can also lead to problems with the knees, while continuously holding tight hand grips is also dangerous. This information is solely intended to educate and should not be considered legal advice.
Are violations to blame for construction accidents?
A top concern for New York lawmakers has been the high rate of accidents on construction sites, which could lead to your serious injury or death. According to Insurance Journal, there have been almost 500 deaths of construction workers in New York City alone over the past decade. Officials have been seeking to lower this number with 18 bills currently attempting to make changes that will lead to safer work environments for construction workers.
There are many ways that you can be injured as you work on a construction site, but statistics show that almost half of the deaths across the state are were caused by falls. While union construction sites were proven to be safer for you than non-union locations, over 90 percent of sites where fatalities occurred were found to be in violation of the safety standards set forth by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Various acts are being proposed in an effort to decrease the number of worker fatalities and increase compliance with safety guidelines. Some of these include additional guardrails, nets and penalties for violations. Experts state that a greater effort needs to be made in training and education in order to provide you with the knowledge you need to operate safely.
While New York City currently has a 10-hour training program in place, you are only required to take it if you will be stationed on very tall or large buildings. An effort is being made to expand this training for all workers. This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice.
How Vulnerable are Maritime Vessels to Cyber Attacks?
Among the things that can impact how safe the workers aboard a vessel are is how big of vulnerabilities the vessel has. This includes things such as how vulnerable the vessel is to accidents or physical attacks. It also includes the level of vulnerability a vessel has to cyber attacks.
In a previous post, we discussed how, in today’s increasingly connected work, there is a potential for significant cyber security threats to come up when it comes to maritime vessels and that such threats have the potential to pose big risks to vessel worker safety.
Given this, it is important that vessels have solid protection against such threats. Unfortunately, a recent research report indicates that maritime vessels generally may have a great deal of vulnerability to such threats.
Among the vessel systems the report identified as being likely targets of attacks by cyber-attackers were navigation-related, cargo-related and propulsion-related systems. The report raised concerns that outdated software when it comes to these and other vessel systems may be creating cyber-threat vulnerabilities.
The report proposed some things that companies that operate maritime vessels could do to help reduce the cyber-threat vulnerability levels of their ships, including:
- Be properly aware of cyber security risks.
- Give crews proper training on cyber security.
- Improve ship design (particularly make such design more cyber-security friendly).
- Update cyber security systems.
As with other safety and security issues, how maritime vessel operators act when it comes to cyber security can have considerable impacts on the workers on their vessels, including impacts on their safety and well-being. So, what sorts and how big of efforts will be taken within the maritime industry moving forward to address potential cyber security vulnerabilities in vessels is an incredibly important issue.
Source: phys.org, “Outdated systems placing maritime vessels at risk of cyber-attack, study suggests,” Alan Williams, May 24, 2016
Who isn't covered by the LHWCA?
Like any injury compensation system, the system set up by the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act has various eligibility rules. Among these rules are rules limiting who is covered under the act. Today we will talk about what workers do not qualify for coverage under the act.
First of all, a worker is not covered by the LHWCA if they are not engaged in maritime occupation/work.
However, not all maritime workers are eligible for coverage. Certain workers are outright excluded from coverage by the act. These workers are: state employees, federal employees, employees of foreign governments, vessel crew members, vessel masters and individuals involved in the repairing/unloading/loading of vessels below a certain weight as a result of being engaged to do so by a master.
Also, the act excludes certain workers from LHWCA coverage if they qualify for workers’ comp coverage under the workers' comp system of the applicable state. These workers include: aquaculture employees, workers who dismantle/repair/build recreational vessels under a certain length, retail outlet employees, museum employees, camp employees, restaurant employees, club employees, recreational operation employees, certain marina workers, certain small vessel workers and workers exclusively employed for office clerical/security/secretarial/data-processing work.
Now, a maritime worker being excluded from LHWCA coverage does not mean the worker has no compensation-seeking options following suffering a workplace injury. They may qualify for state workers' compensation or they may be eligible to take certain other legal actions, like making a Jones Act claim. Experienced attorneys can help injured maritime workers understand what specific compensation-pursuing options they have given their particular job position and other aspects of their particular situation.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, "Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation (DLHWC) - Pamphlet LS-560," Accessed March 3, 2016
How to Tell if Your Vessel is Seaworthy?
As a seaman you have the right to expect that the vessel furnished by your employer is safe. In maritime legal terms, seaworthiness is an important aspect of vessel safety.
It seems simple to say that a vessel should be seaworthy, but how do you know if your vessel is seaworthy? According to established maritime law, you should consider:
- Whether the vessel is able to make its particular voyage safely. The concept of seaworthiness is very much dependent on the specific facts of the situation. A vessel that is seaworthy in the Gulf of Mexico may not be seaworthy off of the coast of Alaska, for example. Other considerations, such as cargo and the length of the voyage, are also important in determining whether a vessel is seaworthy;
- Whether the equipment on the vessel was safe and functioning, and
- Whether the training, skill, and health of the crew members is appropriate for the voyage.
Your employer has an obligation to provide you with a seaworthy vessel upon which to do your job. In other words, the vessel must be fit for the normal perils of the sea and be reasonably safe. If your employer failed to provide you with a vessel that meets that standard and you've been hurt, then you may be entitled to damages. Contact a New Jersey or New York maritime attorney today for more information.
The New York and New Jersey maritime lawyers of Hofmann & Schweitzer represent seamen who have been hurt on unseaworthy vessels