Cargo Ship Traveling Across the OceanFor thousands of years, the ocean has been the world’s busiest—and deadliest—workplace. Container ships are the workhorses of the maritime industry, employing hundreds of thousands of crew members and transporting over 85% of global goods. Unfortunately, the dangerous nature of work at sea causes many Jones Act injuries every year, most of which are entirely preventable.

Leading Causes of Injury for Container Ship Workers

For the modern maritime worker, working on a container ship can be an exciting and adventurous opportunity. But this line of work is not without its risks. From navigating rough waters to combatting fatigue, some challenges are all too familiar for seafarers across the globe.

Countless injuries and deaths at sea are ultimately caused by negligence. Shipowners are governed by federal rules and regulations, but they often place speed and profits ahead of the safety of their employees, contributing to:

  • Falls. Slips, trips, and falls can occur when crew members are walking on deck or climbing up and down ladders. Even with proper footwear, slippery conditions and rough seas can make falls more likely and the injuries they cause extremely painful. To reduce the risk posed by slippery surfaces, teams should proactively check areas where there may be water spillage or oil buildup and take corrective action, such as using non-slip mats or adding traction strips where applicable.
  • Burns. Burns often happen when crew members are working with chemicals or when fires break out in crew areas. Some types of cargo increase the risk of fires, such as combustible gases given off by cotton, coal, and fishmeal. Employers and shipowners might be liable if injuries result from flammable materials or lack of fire suppression equipment.
  • Equipment malfunctions. Equipment accidents can occur when crew members use equipment that is damaged, not properly maintained, or improperly repaired. Machinery failure injuries can have devastating effects, including spinal cord damage or the loss of a limb.
  • Collisions. Crew members may be injured when the ship collides with another vessel or strikes a stationary object such as a bridge or wind turbine. A sudden grounding or unintended stop can fling workers into rails, against hulls, or overboard.
  • Weather-related accidents. Rough seas and high winds can cause unsecured cargo to fall onto workers below, while decreased visibility in a storm increases the risk of collisions.
  • Struck-by injuries. Cargo is at its most dangerous during loading and unloading. Crew members may incur injuries as they’re struck by a swinging crane boom, caught in the path of a rope line, or crushed under the weight of a falling container.
  • Respiratory injuries. Dust and fumes are an often-overlooked hazard on container ships. Crew members who sweep out containers or access little-used parts of the ship can inhale tiny particles of dust or chemicals, causing coughing, sneezing, or lung irritation.
  • Lifting injuries. Maritime workers must be properly trained in proper lifting techniques and use the right equipment when lifting heavy objects. When crews are not properly trained, they may be more prone to suffer from back injuries or other musculoskeletal issues.
  • Suffocation. Some organic goods and compounds give off carbon dioxide, depleting the available oxygen in containers and cargo holds. Crew members who stay in these areas too long can quickly lose consciousness or suffocate in the toxic atmosphere.

Our Maritime Injury Law Firm Takes on Insurers, Employers, and Shipowners

Shipping companies are heavily insured to protect their interests, and they could be subject to injury lawsuits if they allow work to continue on an unseaworthy vessel. Improper training, lack of adequate maintenance, and failure to hire enough crew members to safely operate the vessel could all form the basis of unseaworthiness claims.

If you have been hurt while working on a container ship, the legal team at Hofmann & Schweitzer can protect your rights—and we don’t collect any payment unless we win your case. Call our experienced Jones Act injury attorneys at 1-800-3-MAY-DAY or learn more about your claim in our complimentary guide, Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.


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