Maritime Accidents and Injuries

Working in the maritime industry is often a lucrative and rewarding career, but it’s also well-known for its high-risk environment for accidents and injuries. Regardless of job role, almost every career in the maritime field comes with inherent dangers. Accidents and injuries are a part of the dangers of working in the maritime field, but in many situations, can be prevented with the proper safety precautions and training.

Most Common Maritime Accidents

Falling Overboard

Falling overboard not only entails falling while out to sea, but also falling in between vessels while loading cargo or handing fishing gear over from the side of a vessel. To make matters worse, rescue efforts are often difficult, placing other crew members and workers at risk. Drowning, hypothermia, and a myriad of other dangers are possible when falling overboard.

Slip and Falls

Vessel decks that are slippery, uneven, or cluttered all play into slip and fall accidents. If the slip and fall occurs close to an unguarded edge on the vessel, injuries can be devastating, including, concussions, spinal cord injures, broken bones, and even death.

Enclosed Spaces

Many maritime workers work in small and/or enclosed spaces, such as storage rooms, cargo areas, chain lockers, and access routes. Being near toxic fumes and areas that lack sufficient oxygen is dangerous, placing these workers at a heightened risk for asphyxia and poisoning.

Chemical Burns

A vessel’s engine room and galley are the most common places that chemical burns occur. Burns happen for several reasons, including contact with extremely hot oil and other fluids while cooking, electrical and voltage accidents, and exposure to harmful chemicals.

Repetitive Use Injuries 

Maritime workers are often required to perform the same task over and over for prolonged periods of time. Without the proper breaks and safety training, they are in danger over overexertion and repetitive motion disorder (RMD). The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NIH) states the the body parts most susceptible to RMD include the:

  • Back
  • Neck
  • Hip
  • Legs and feet
  • Ankles

Inadequate Training 

Poor training is often the cause of many accidents and injuries. For example, if a seaman is training on how to prevent repetitive use injuries, operate machinery correctly, or how to react during emergency situations, they can easily get hurt. It’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure all workers are thoroughly trained before beginning any work task.

Fishing Injuries

Fishing accidents and injuries encompass a wide variety areas, including shrimpers, crab fishermen, lumpers, and more. From 2000 to 2009, over a hundred commercial fishermen were killed while working, with over half succumbing to vessel disasters and at 30% falling overboard. Other reasons for fishing injuries include defective equipment, knifing injuries, and lack of safety gear.

Dock and Pier Accidents 

Dock and pier accidents are one of the most common types of maritime accidents due to loading and unloading heavy cargo, walking along gangways, and working around heavy equipment. Vehicular accidents are also common among dock and pier injuries. For instance, drivers need to pay special attention when driving through areas in which cargo loading is occurring. Several deaths and devastating injuries happened after a defective cargo struck a moving vehicle.

Common Maritime Injuries

Although there are a wide array of injuries that can happen at anytime during maritime work, some are more common than others, and in many instances, can be prevented if workers are afforded proper training, functioning equipment, safety gear, and a safe working environment.

Head Injuries

Considering that a plethora of seamen work in an environment that’s constantly moving , head injuries are the one of the most typical types of injuries. From slips and falls, being hit by object, or being being struck moving cargo loads, head injuries are a typical occurrence. It’s important to remember, however, that although head injuries happen frequently and may seem minor, it’s imperative to get medical care. Closed head injuries are especially dangerous as they are more difficult to diagnose.

Broken Limbs

Broken arms, legs, and ankles occur for a variety of reasons, including slip and fall accidents, falling overboard, falling off gangways, and more. In many cases, these types of accidents can be reduced significantly with correct safety measures and training.

Lost Limbs and Amputation 

Unfortunately, lost limbs and amputation are a typical injury in the maritime industry. Even worse, most seamen will never be able to return to their jobs after such a devastating accident, and many will endure emotional trauma, such as severe depression or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Lost limbs and amputation typically occur due to:

  • Defective, malfunctioning equipment
  • Poor navigation planning, leading to collisions
  • Improper safety training or lack of training

Shoulder Injuries 

Shoulder injuries can happen to any maritime worker regardless of job function. For example, a steward may get knocked into heavy equipment due to rocky waters, while a commercial fisherman may get jerked too harshly while working on a winch. In most instances in the maritime industry, shoulder injuries are a result of overexertion.  Shoulder injuries can lead to a host of additional injuries, including:

  • Fractures
  • Damaged collar bone
  • Sprains
  • Shoulder dislocation
  • Bursitis
  • Tears in the glenoid labrum

Negligence and Maritime Accidents and Injuries

There are occasions that accidents and injuries will happen that couldn’t have been prevented, such as unpredictable weather. Yet, research suggests that the majority of maritime accidents and injuries can be prevented. Employers are obligated to ensure that maritime workers are afforded the safest working environment possible, yet, it’s the lack of safety that causes many of these incidents. The most common types of negligence that leads to accidents and injuries include:

  • Improper training
  • Failing to detect and repair equipment
  • Overworking seamen; refusing needed breaks
  • Failing to ensure desks have non-skid surfaces and free of debris
  • Failing to keep workers safe when rocky waters and adverse weather have been identified

If You’ve Been Injured

General maritime law protects maritime workers in the event of an accident and injury, and the Jones Act protects those who were injured due to employer negligence. For more information on your legal rights and options, details on general maritime law, and the benefits and compensation you may be entitled, we invite you to fill out our form for a complimentary Maritime Injury information.