Working BargeTankermen play a key role onboard barges, but they are also likely to sustain serious injuries when their employer, coworkers, or tug boat operators create dangerous situations. It is essential to tankerman safety that barge decks are kept neat, that all equipment is in good working order, and that coworkers and managers are qualified and competent in their jobs. When negligence or carelessness plays a role in a tankerman’s accident and injury, a maritime injury lawyer can help the seaman get the compensation they deserve.

What Do Barge Tankermen Do?

On board a barge, tankermen are responsible for liquid cargo as it is brought on board, transported, and delivered. Some of their key duties include:

  • Loading and unloading. As they load and unload cargo, tankermen are responsible for connecting hoses, monitoring the flow of liquids, and ensuring proper procedures are followed during the transfer process.
  • Maintenance and repair. Tankermen assist in maintaining and repairing equipment and machinery on the barge. This can involve tasks such as cleaning tanks, painting, replacing valves or fittings, and performing routine maintenance checks to ensure everything is in working order.
  • Compliance with regulations. A thorough understanding of applicable regulations and industry standards is essential for all tankermen. Lacking this understanding can put coworkers at risk.
  • Emergency equipment maintenance. Barge tankermen might be responsible for inspecting, maintaining, and testing emergency equipment such as firefighting equipment, personal protective gear, and spill response kits.
  • Navigation support. Between ports, tankermen may assist the barge captain in navigating waterways, especially during challenging conditions or when docking at ports. This includes line handling, maneuvering the barge, and ensuring safe navigation practices are followed.
  • Hazardous materials handling. Tankermen should be trained in handling hazardous materials and ensuring their safe transport, storage, and disposal. They must follow strict protocols for handling hazardous substances, including the use of appropriate personal protective equipment and adherence to relevant safety procedures.
  • Environmental protection. Preventing pollution and minimizing the environmental impact of barge operations are important responsibilities on an oil barge, and tankermen are often on the front line of spill prevention, waste management, and environmental protection.
  • Equipment operation. Tankermen operate a range of equipment and machinery on barges, such as pumps, valves, compressors, and generators. They ensure the proper functioning of these systems, perform routine checks, and troubleshoot any issues that may arise during operations.

All of these duties involve a certain amount of risk. When things go wrong, tankermen can be seriously injured or even killed.

How Tankermen Can Be Injured on the Job

Common injuries tankermen sustain while performing their job duties include:

  • Slip and fall injuries. Slippery decks, gangways, or stairs due to water, oil spills, or inadequate non-slip surfaces are common causes of slip and fall accidents on barges.
  • Crush injuries. Heavy equipment, cargo, or machinery can fall or shift unexpectedly, trapping seamen between objects or against structural components.
  • Chemical exposure injuries. Tankermen may be exposed to hazardous chemicals during cargo transfers or when handling substances. Chemical exposure can cause burns, respiratory issues, skin irritation, or long-term health effects.
  • Strains and sprains. Straining or spraining muscles, tendons, or ligaments are common injuries among workers like tankermen who lift heavy objects, move cargo, or perform repetitive tasks without proper ergonomics or lifting techniques.
  • Burns. Seamen can sustain burns from hot surfaces, steam, or contact with hot liquids during cargo transfers or maintenance activities involving heated equipment. Fires and explosions are always possible on oil tankers.
  • Back injuries. Maritime workers are susceptible to back injuries and chronic back pain due to the physical demands of lifting heavy objects, repetitive bending, or twisting motions during cargo transfers or maintenance tasks.
  • Drowning or near-drowning. Tankermen working near or over water are at risk of drowning or near-drowning incidents if they fall overboard or encounter unexpected hazards while in the water.
  • Heat-related illnesses. Working in hot and humid environments puts tankermen at risk for heat exhaustion or heatstroke due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures and inadequate hydration.
  • Confined space injuries. Working in confined spaces, such as tanks or compartments on board barges, carries a risk of injury and illness caused by inadequate ventilation, toxic atmospheres, or entrapment hazards.

When these kinds of accidents are caused by negligence on the part of barge owners, injured seamen can be awarded compensation under maritime law.

Compensation for Injuries Sustained by Tankermen Working on Barges

As seamen who are covered by maritime law, tankermen who are injured while in service to their vessel are entitled to maintenance for day-to-day living expenses and cure for medical costs—at least until they reach maximum medical improvement. Employers must pay this compensation until the seaman is fit for duty or has reached a point where they are not expected to improve any further.

Importantly, injured seamen, such as tankerman, also have the right to sue their employer and the ship owner for negligence and unseaworthiness. In those actions, the seaman can collect compensation for lost earnings, future lost earnings, fringe benefits, and pain and suffering. Thus, it is important to speak to a Maritime lawyer, who will be able to advise you of all the rights you might be entitled to if you are an injured tankerman or other seafarer. 

Paul T. Hofmann
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Focused on personal injury, with an emphasis on maritime, railroad and construction worker tort claims.