It is widely accepted that some occupations at sea are accompanied by a significant risk of injury or death. What is not so well-known is just how ordinary and preventable many of the dangers facing maritime workers are. Working on a routine task can quickly turn into a life-or-death battle for a maritime worker.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has examined reported cases of maritime worker accidents and developed fact sheets covering major causes of maritime workers’ injuries and deaths. OSHA identified the following as the most common types of tragic maritime accidents:

  • Vehicular accidents

  • Falls and drowning accidents

  • Material handling accidents

What Are the Major Causes of Vehicular Accidents?

Many maritime fatalities are not caused by high seas, inclement weather and acts of God. They are incidents that could have been avoided through the proper use of safety equipment, taking the time to pay attention, and ensuring workers are properly trained to operate vehicles and equipment in a marine terminal. According to OSHA, some common ways vehicular accidents have led to fatalities or injuries include:

  • Powered industrial truck accidents caused by a lack of warnings signals, missing safety devices, and operators having an obstructed forward view.

  • Tractor-trailer accidents caused by the vehicle being operated in the same lane as other workers.

  • Container truck accidents caused when the trucks are operated in a high traffic area with poorly marked traffic and pedestrian lanes and a lack of training of the machine operator.

  • Forklift truck accidents caused by lack of the operator’s visibility of nearby co-workers, lack of clearly marked pedestrian lanes, and insufficient training of the operator.

  • Tractor tip-over accidents caused by the operator not wearing a seat belt, not obeying speed and other traffic rules, and not backing up properly.

Falls and Drowning Accidents

With all the moving parts and people in a port setting, it is crucial to take proper precautions to ensure the safety of longshoreman, seamen, riggers and other maritime workers. A seemingly innocent slip can quickly turn deadly, leaving a family without their loved one and left to figure out how to move on without their family’s breadwinner.

According to OSHA, falls and drowning accidents are one of the three primary causes of fatalities in Longshoring and marine terminals. They provided a variety of case studies, including:

  • A worker slipping and falling into the water without a life vest while releasing the mooring lines.

  • A worker falling into the water while unhooking spreader cables on board a grain barge, when no life ring is available.

  • A worker falling into the water while operating a Bobcat on an open deck barge without wearing a life jacket.

  • A worker falling onto the deck while descending an inadequate Jacob’s ladder.

  • A worker falling after a corroded catwalk collapsed.

  • A worker falling into the water and being crushed due to a lack of safe access to a barge.

Reasons for Material Handling Injuries and Deaths

Many material handling accidents involve a maritime worker being crushed by or struck by parts, containers, and heavy construction materials. In many cases, loads or other objects were not properly secured or loaded. According to OSHA’s “fatal facts” on longshoring and marine terminals, workers have been injured or killed in the following ways:

  • Struck by falling parts while working beneath a turbogenerator.

  • Struck by a falling aluminum T-bar improperly secured on a crane.

  • Crushed by a press machine as it tilted on its side.

  • Crushed when standing beneath a load that was suspended by an incorrect clamp.

  • Struck by a spreader bar that disengaged from a bridge crane.

  • Crushed by improperly stacked slabs of steel.

  • Crushed by a toppling stack of crates during a forklift operation.

  • Struck by toppling paper rolls being loaded into the hold of a ship.

  • Struck by partially suspended steel rails that were swinging.

  • Struck by shifting lumber improperly secured in the ship’s hold.

  • Crushed as dump truck trailer carrying materials tipped over.

  • Struck by a suspended container during a load-out operation.

  • Struck by a container knocked off a ship during cargo handling.

Were you injured in one of these or another type of accident? Was a loved one killed in a maritime accident? The experienced and compassionate maritime attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer are here to take over the burden of investigating your accident, filing your claim, and negotiating a fair settlement for your injuries. To learn more about how we can assist you, fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation.

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