A 26-year-old Royal Caribbean crew member has died after a maritime injury he suffered while working on the cruise ship Vision of the Seas. The crew member was performing maintenance work when he fell off the side of the ship. Divers subsequently located and recovered his body. This crew member marks the 349th person to fall overboard while on a cruise ship since 2000.
The crew member, Marvin Galero, was married with a 3-year-old child. He was the third of nine siblings, and will be terribly missed. Circumstances pertaining to this maritime injury and death remain cloudy. In fact, four people are under investigation, including the captain of the ship. Media reports state that manslaughter charges could result from Galero’s death.
Neglected Safety Procedures and Maritime Injury
At the time of the accident, it appears that the cruise line was not following proper safety procedures. Galero was not wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). Royal Caribbean’s safety quality manual (SQM) outlines “work aloft” procedures. The worker should have been wearing appropriate PPE, including a safety harness and other equipment.
The Royal Caribbean SQM obliges crew supervisors, department heads, and safety officers to sign off on the training that each crew member receives. This is to make sure they are familiar with necessary safety equipment as they carry out dangerous aspects of their work. Studies show this education and training is one of the most important factors in maritime safety.
Crew members who are properly trained in the use of PPE are safer workers who experience a much lower rate of maritime injury.
Royal Caribbean should have also completed a job safety analysis (JSA) outlining the risk of injury or death that the job presented to the worker. Furthermore, the cruise line should have outlined the steps taken by supervisors to minimize those risks. The cruise line did not complete a JSA for the job that Galero was performing when he fell.
Royal Caribbean is not the only cruise line to experience crew member injury. Carnival Cruise Lines lost a crew member who fell off the Victory last year. The crew member was also not wearing PPE.
Struggles for Filipino Maritime Workers
Galero was a Filipino national, as are many other Royal Caribbean crew members. This is significant because Filipino seafarers must abide by the Philippines Overseas Employment Act (POEA). The POEA is a law from the Philippines that restricts the compensation Filipino crew members may claim when they are killed by the negligence of their employers. The POEA requires Filipino crew members to pursue arbitration in Manila before filing a lawsuit in the United States.
Under this heavily restrictive law, the maximum recovery surviving family members may obtain is only $50,000 for each adult and $7,500 for each child. Damages in such small amounts are hardly adequate to compensate families for their loss. Such damages also are not truly punitive for negligent cruise lines.
Work Aloft Procedures and PPE
There is no disputing that working on a ship or in a shipyard is dangerous. Maritime workers are subjected to extreme weather conditions and hazardous working environments on a daily basis. To promote maritime safety and enable workers to hold ship owners responsible for any workplace injuries, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), in connection with other American and international laws, enforces strict guidelines for some of the most dangerous work that must be done on ships.
A perfect example of a highly restricted work environment is working aloft. Before working aloft or overside, it is important that maritime workers have the correct permit to work and have performed a job risk assessment. The assessment should identify any potential hazards, such as bad weather or strong currents.
Though not regulated, it is best practice to inform crewmates and supervisors of plans to carry out work aloft or overside. The best way to do so would be to both verbally alert them and to place warning signs. Some cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean, require supervisors and other members in the hierarchy of command to sign off on any work aloft.
Perhaps of highest importance is to ensure all safety equipment and PPE are nearby and in proper use. Examples of appropriate PPE will vary by the specific job but may include:
- Safety harness
- Personal flotation device or life preserver
- Safety glasses
- Radar scanner
- Radio antenna
Experience and Supervision to Prevent Maritime Injury
Seafarers with limited experience should not work aloft or overside without the supervision of a more experienced crew member. Regardless of experience level, the best way to promote maritime workplace safety is to consistently have a responsible crewmember keeping watch on deck. A responsible watchman can be the difference between getting help to a crew member in trouble in time or being too late.
For overside work, it is best practice for a crew member keeping watch to have a lifebuoy and line on hand. These can be thrown immediately to the worker in case of an emergency.
Examining Equipment and Tools
Crew members should inspect all equipment and tools before starting a job. Do this to make sure they are the appropriate quality and in good condition. Never carry tools in your pockets. All tools should be carried on a tool belt or other suitable container.
Finally, be sure to fasten any security equipment, like gantlines, to permanent fixtures before allowing them to bear your weight. Likewise, test all ropes and ladders prior to starting work with at least four times the load they will bear during the job. This should be in addition to a visual inspection.
How Can PPE Use Prevent Maritime Injury?
PPE are vital tools that keep workers safe when the unexpected happens. A maritime injury is something no crew member plans for, but all crew members should be prepared for. Consider the following:
- 80% of maritime fatalities are the result of falling overboard or capsizing and sudden immersion in cold.
- In 90% of those fatalities, workers were not wearing life jackets or personal flotation devices (PFDs).
- Without PFDs specifically, workers risk maritime injury and death from loss of consciousness. This is due to carbon monoxide fumes, injury from submerged hazards, sinking unexpectedly, or inability to swim because of waterlogged clothing
The importance of PPE cannot be stressed enough in a maritime work environment.
Have Questions about a Maritime Injury?
Lawmakers continuously enact laws to mandate employers’ enforcement of PPE use. Sadly, many employers continue to put their employees at risk. If you work in the maritime industry and have experienced an injury due to improper use or provision of PPE by your employer, contact Maritime Injury Guide.