Although it can be a lucrative occupation, working in the maritime industry comes with several hazards. One of the biggest dangers is the risk of bodily injuries while on the job. Unfortunately, maritime bodily injuries can happen in several ways and at almost anytime while at work. In some cases, accidents are a part of the occupation and can’t be prevented, but in other instances, the failure to provide maritime workers with adequate training, a safe working environment, and protective gear can lead to bodily injuries that may end up lasting a lifetime.
Drowning is one of the many dangerous realities of the maritime work life, and typically occurs during unforeseen storms and large waves. However, it can also happen even when ships are tied to the dock or when transporting goods onto a ship or from a ship, especially if the seaman is not provided the proper safety gear, such as a life vest or flotation device. On other occasions, maritime workers who put in long hours and are exhausted are at high-risk for falling overboard and drowning.
Head injuries are one of the most common types of trauma in maritime work. Both closed and open head injuries are common in the maritime industry, and are caused from a variety of scenarios, including slip and fall accidents, conveyor belt mishaps, unsafe surfaces, and more. Any kind of head injury, regardless of how minor it seems, should be treated immediately and reported to your supervisor. Although closed head injuries may not seem as serious as open head injuries, the risk of long-term medical complications is greater as the extent of damage isn’t as distinguishable, so regardless if you think you feel fine, be certain to take the proper medical steps after any head injury. Failure to do so may compromise the compensation you may be entitled if the your head injury gets worse over time.
Hypothermia is another dangerous risk that seamen face. Not only do they have to worry about hypothermia in cold waters and weather, but working in any temperature above freezing, whether on land and water, can contribute to hypothermia. Seamen are known for working long hours in any type of weather, so extreme caution should be used at all times. Common reasons for hypothermia in the maritime injury includes:
- Lack of basic safety gear while aboard a vessel or while transporting goods to and from a vessel
- Falling overboard
- Lack of training
- Remaining in adverse weather without the proper clothing
Unfortunately, a host of accidents and injuries can contribute to the risk of losing a limb in the maritime industry. Unfortunately, when lost limbs occur, most maritime workers are forced to leave their jobs indefinitely, resulting not only in lost wages but in many cases no way to financially support themselves and their loved ones. Other common reasons lost limbs and amputation occur include forklift and crane injuries, navigation failures, broken equipment, and/or improper safety and equipment training.
Sadly, assault happens in the maritime industry, and can lead to both emotional and physical injuries that may last a lifetime. Typical assault incidents occur from fighting between co-workers and/or passenger guests on a cruise. Regardless of how the assault happened, employers are responsible for not only ensuring that their employees are protected, but also that they hire those with the correct qualifications and background history.
Maritime repetitive use injuries entail the use and overexertion of body parts when working. With maritime work, seamen can over exert their muscles while loading and unloading cargo without breaks, working in an awkward position for prolonged periods of time, forceful labor, and more. Overexertion can lead to repetitive motion disorder (RMD), resulting in carpal tunnel syndrome, damaged joints, neck pain, back pain, and permanent soft tissue damage.
Continuous lifting, twisting, and pulling can all lead to shoulder injuries, and maritime workers who are expected to work long hours repeating the same tasks over and over are at risk for shoulder injuries that can hinder their performance, sometimes indefinitely. Consequences of shoulder injuries can include tendinitis, sprains, dislocation, fractures, strains, rotator cuff issues, and more.
Working with and around unsafe, broken equipment, lack of training, repetitive tasks, slips and falls, and holding onto to a winch that jerks with too much force can cause shoulder injuries. It’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible after a shoulder injury as it has the tendency to get much worse over time, especially without the proper medical treatment.
Slippery decks and unstable conditions put maritime workers at risk for slip and fall accidents frequently, especially if the surfaces aren’t skid-free or cleaned thoroughly. In addition, trip and fall accidents occur due to faulty stairs, loose cargo lines, inadequate lining, improper ship planning, and obstructions in the work area. Slip and fall and trip and fall accidents are unfortunately another common occurrence in the maritime industry, and can lead to a array of injuries, including:
- Sprains and torn ligaments
- Knee injuries
- Head trauma
- Spinal cord injuries
Legal Information Regarding Maritime Bodily Injuries
It’s important to remember that although some accidents are a part of the maritime industry and come with the territory, if you’re injured due to employer negligence, there are maritime laws and acts set in place, such as the Jones Act and general maritime law, that protect you. Compensation for medical bills, lost wages, daily living expenses, and more may be available for you.
For more detailed information on your legal rights, options, and maritime law, we invite you to fill out our form for information regarding rights and laws for injured seamen and maritime workers. We’ll not only help you understand your rights as a maritime worker, but also assist you in determining the compensation and benefits that you may be entitled to.