Maritime Worker on a ShipMaritime workers have some of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S., so it’s no surprise that they are at a higher risk of falls than other kinds of workers. In addition to trips and falls on vessels, longshoremen and seamen can suffer debilitating—or even fatal—falls from heights. While some falls may result in minor injuries, a fall from a height is likely to cause severe injuries that require extensive medical care and a permanent change of vocation.

Injuries Maritime Workers May Suffer Due to a Fall

Any injury suffered in the course of maritime work should be covered under state and federal workers’ compensation laws. For example, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act provides workers’ compensation to maritime employees in ports, while the Jones Act provides sailors with compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and potential negligence. An experienced maritime injury lawyer can examine the details of your case to determine who may be liable for your work accident costs.

Maritime workers could be owed compensation from benefit programs, shipowners, and third parties for:

  • Falls overboard. A fall off of a dock or ship into open water is an unfortunately common cause of maritime worker deaths. Even if workers are rescued from the water, they may suffer hypothermia, hypoxia, and other near-drowning effects.
  • Falls from platforms. Workers on ships may fall from ropes and scaffolding when making repairs, while harbor workers may trip when operating equipment on roofs of storage buildings. A fall from several stories may result in life-changing brain injuries, physical and mental disabilities, or spinal cord injuries that cause partial or total paralysis.
  • Falls in motion. Seamen who are being transported between vessels may fall from transport vehicles, such as personnel platforms, cargo trucks, passenger cars, and pilot boats. Even at slow speeds, forward motion can complicate the injuries sustained in a fall, as well as make rescue attempts more difficult.
  • Falls into or between objects. Every fall poses the risk of trapping a worker between or inside another object. A fall into the water between ships can complicate retrieval efforts, while a fall into a pile of gravel or sand may result in suffocation. Falls into open hatches, scrap piles, or machinery may lead to fractured or broken bones, or result in limb entrapment that requires amputation.

Common Causes of Falls From Heights in the Maritime Industry

The sad truth is that the majority of maritime falls could have been prevented if the employer or shipowner had taken the proper safety precautions. The most common oversights that result in injuries from these incidents include:

  • Lack of safety equipment. Falls are more likely to occur if proper safeguards are not in place, such as non-slip surface coatings and adequate railings to protect workers from falling overboard. Any person performing work at height should also be secured by safety lines to prevent a fall, as well as wear a personal flotation device to aid rescue if a fall occurs.
  • Maintenance issues. If the equipment workers rely on is not well maintained or not functioning properly, the risk of an accident increases tenfold. A lack of regular inspections and maintenance can cause anything from a trip on a loose bolt to crane collapse.
  • Improper training. While there is no way to prevent all instances of human error, employers can reduce accidents considerably through specialized safety training programs. In addition to ensuring that workers have been adequately trained for the jobs they do, employers are responsible for conducting training courses that address the specific risks of the job and the work environment.

If you are struggling after a maritime injury, we encourage you to find out more about your rights. Simply call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY today to speak with a maritime injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer, and be sure to download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.


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