barrels of hazardous waste stacked behind a chain link fenceBarges carry a range of materials, from bulky and heavy objects to chemicals and toxic garbage. If you are a tankerman loading and unloading a barge, or you work on the tugboat that is pushing the barge, you are at risk of exposure and injury when dangerous substances are being transported.

Maritime workers who suffer serious injuries while on their vessels are subject to protections that are unique to the industry. That is why it is so important to consult an offshore injury law firm if you are seriously injured or debilitated in an accident on board a barge or tugboat. Reach out to Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible if you were injured in a maritime hazardous material accident on a barge or other vessel.

Hazardous Material Transported by Barges

Any number of dangerous products could be transported on a barge, and in the event of a spill or accident, these substances can pose significant risks to barge workers. Hazardous cargo that barge workers could be responsible for includes the following:

  • Petroleum products. Spills of petroleum products, such as crude oil, gasoline, or diesel fuel, can result in flammable vapor clouds and fires, causing burns, respiratory issues, and even explosions that can harm barge workers.
  • Chemicals. Spills of chemicals, such as acids, alkalis, or solvents, can lead to skin burns, eye injuries, and respiratory problems due to toxic fumes or inhalation of harmful substances.
  • Hazardous waste. Spillage of hazardous waste can lead to exposure to toxic substances, causing acute or chronic health effects, such as respiratory issues, skin disorders, and long-term illnesses.
  • Radioactive materials. A spill of radioactive materials can expose workers to harmful radiation, leading to acute radiation sickness or an increased risk of developing cancer and other health problems.
  • Ammonia. Ammonia is a toxic gas that can cause severe respiratory and eye irritation, and exposure to high concentrations can be life-threatening to barge workers.
  • Fertilizers. Fertilizer spills can lead to fires and explosions, especially when combined with other flammable materials, causing injuries or fatalities to workers.
  • Biohazardous materials. Spills of biohazardous materials, such as infectious substances, can expose workers to pathogens, leading to infections and illnesses.
  • Flammable liquids. Spills of flammable liquids such as ethanol and methanol can ignite and cause fires or explosions, leading to burns and other injuries to barge workers.
  • Corrosive substances. Exposure to corrosive substances such as sulfuric or hydrochloric acids can cause severe burns to the skin and eyes of workers and may also release toxic fumes.
  • Pesticides and herbicides. Spills of these chemicals can lead to skin irritation, respiratory issues, and other health problems for barge workers.
  • Explosives. Transporting explosives on barges involves significant risks, as even a minor accident can lead to catastrophic consequences for workers on board.
  • Asbestos. Exposure to asbestos fibers can cause serious respiratory conditions and increase the risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma for barge workers.
  • Toxic gases. Exposure to toxic gases such as chlorine and cyanide can cause respiratory distress, chemical burns, and other severe health issues for workers.

Barge workers handling hazardous cargo must undergo specialized training and follow strict safety protocols to minimize the risk of accidents and spills. Employers and operators of barges also have a responsibility to ensure proper handling, storage, and transport of hazardous cargo to protect both workers and the environment. However, accidents do happen, whether they are caused by negligence or an innocent mistake.

Serious Injuries Caused by Exposure to Hazardous Materials

Whether you were injured in a sudden accident or developed an occupational disease from prolonged exposure, you could require extensive medical care and time off work. Common injuries caused by hazmat accidents include:

  • Respiratory irritation. Inhalation of hazardous fumes, gases, or airborne particles can lead to irritation of the respiratory system, causing symptoms like coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and a sore throat.
  • Chemical burns. Direct contact with corrosive substances can result in chemical burns on the skin and eyes, leading to pain, redness, blisters, and potential scarring.
  • Thermal burns. When flammable materials ignite or explode, workers could be injured in the blast and suffer serious thermal burns.
  • Toxicity and poisoning. Exposure to toxic substances, such as heavy metals (lead, mercury), pesticides, or certain industrial chemicals, can lead to poisoning, affecting various organs and systems in the body.
  • Cancer. Prolonged exposure to certain carcinogenic substances, like asbestos, benzene, and formaldehyde, can increase the risk of developing various types of cancer, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and leukemia.

If you suffer one of these types of injuries on the job, you may be entitled to full compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, but you will need an experienced maritime injury lawyer to fight for you.