top NYC maritime attorneysCargo ships and fishing vessels often use conveyor belts to move cargo quickly and efficiently from ship to shore. When used properly, conveyor belts can prevent a lot of injuries, removing the need for repetitive heavy lifting when transporting the day’s catch to processing areas. However, conveyors pose their own risk of injuries and can be extremely dangerous for maritime workers if they are not used properly.

Maritime Workers at High Risk of Conveyor Belt Injuries

The types of conveyor belts used on vessels can have a number of moving parts, all with the potential to catch an employee’s limbs or clothing. Conveyors may consist of pulleys, belts, tracks, and rollers, and are powered by industrial electrical systems whose force can easily injure or kill a worker.

Conveyor belt accidents can cause a multitude of injuries, but the most common incidents involving this type of equipment are:

  • Arm and hand injuries. The speed of the belt can cause broken bones, friction burns, shearing, or even de-glove a worker’s hands.
  • Amputations. Limbs that make contact with the belt or the conveyor’s drive shaft may be mutilated, crushed, or even pulled from their sockets, resulting in amputation.
  • Strangulation. The continuous rotation of the belt can catch and drag an employee, which can be fatal if they are caught by the neck. Several workers have been killed as their jackets, sleeves, or hoods were in the mechanism—causing them to suffocate because they could not free themselves.

Common Causes of Conveyor Belt Accidents at Sea

Hundreds of maritime workers are injured or killed every year as a result of defective equipment such as conveyors. In the majority of cases, the direct negligence or carelessness of an employer or the vessel owner is to blame for these injuries. Our skilled maritime lawyers can determine whether your conveyor belt injury was caused by:

  • Improper guards. Due to the high risk of injury, conveyor belts are required to have adequate shields and guard rails to protect workers from entanglement. However, these guards are sometimes removed to speed up processing, making it easy for a crew member to come into contact with the mechanism.
  • Improper training. The employer has a duty to ensure that every person working with a conveyor belt completes the proper safety training. If crew members are not trained before beginning any tasks involving a conveyor, they may easily make mistakes such as wearing loose clothing or attempting to free stuck materials while the belt is still moving.
  • Deactivated trips and alarms. Conveyor belts are often equipped with safety features to prevent injury, such as warning horns and lights to alert workers that conveyor belts are about to be activated. They should also be equipped with a series of trip cords that can shut the belts down quickly if an accident occurs.
  • Maintenance failures. Broken, faulty, or poorly-installed machine parts are another common factor in conveyor belt injuries. An employer could be held liable for a failure to schedule regular checks on equipment, repair worn or defective parts, or perform adequate and timely maintenance. In addition, the parts manufacturer or shipowner could be responsible for manufacturing or installing defective components.

Maritime employees have the legal right to a safe and healthy workplace. If the ship or its equipment is below a reasonable safety standard, workers could have an unseaworthiness claim against the owner of the vessel. If the vessel was not fit for duty, employees could be owed compensation for a shipowner’s negligence in addition to payment for their medical costs and lost wages.

Contact Top NYC Maritime Attorneys Today

If you have been involved in a maritime accident, we can perform a full investigation to determine who was at fault. Simply fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with a lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer today, or read through our FREE brochure, Hurt in a Construction Accident? You’re Not Alone.


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