Located six miles across San Francisco Bay from Oakland, the city of San Francisco has a significant, if somewhat smaller, maritime facility. The Port of San Francisco was established in 1863 and is a base for cruise ships, commercial fishing vessels, ferries, and general cargo shipping. The port also has a ship repair facility that handles all types of vessels. All these activities provide thousands of maritime jobs in the Bay Area, but the work is dangerous and many seamen and port workers are injured every year. Often, these injuries are the result of accidents caused by negligent employers who cut corners on safety, training, or maintenance of ships and/or equipment.
The Port’s Maritime Division and Common Accidents and Injuries
The Maritime Division of the Port of San Francisco manages and markets a kaleidoscope of maritime activities. It is responsible for the operations of industries such as commercial fishing, cruise ships, freight shipping, recreational boating and fishing, and ship repair. Five deep-water berths, on-dock rail service, a cruise ship terminal, the iconic Fisherman’s Wharf and a wide array of dry docks, heavy cranes, and warehouses are just a few of the Maritime Division’s important facilities.
Although the Maritime Division helps creates many lucrative jobs for seamen and shore-based maritime workers, many of the tasks carried out at the Port are arduous and dangerous. The constant milling about of personnel on ships and the docks, combined with the use of heavy machinery and the handling of bulky cargo that can weigh tons, makes working at the Port of San Francisco a high-risk activity. Accidents can and do happen in any maritime environment, especially in situations where a worker’s employer doesn’t pay attention to such details as maintenance of equipment, the seaworthiness of a vessel, or proper training of seamen or longshore employees.
The most common accidents that take place on ships or maritime facilities are:
- Collisions between vessels
- Shipboard fires
- Crane and winch accidents
- Seine-net accidents
- Warehouse fires
- Oil spills
- Heavy objects falling on workers
- Exposure to chemicals and other toxic materials, including asbestos
- Machinery-related accidents
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Ladder and gangway accidents
- Man overboard accidents
Some of the most common injuries suffered by maritime workers include:
- Cuts and lacerations
- Sprains and strains
- Back problems
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Mechanical asphyxiation
- Dental trauma
- Neck, head, and spinal cord injuries
- Mesothelioma resulting from asbestos exposure
If maritime workers are injured at work, federal laws such as the Jones Act and Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Act give them the ability to file for compensation and recover medical and other injury-related expenses if the accident was caused by negligent employers. The Jones Act covers seamen and other offshore workers, while the LHWCA or Longshore Act is a statutory worker’s compensation plan that covers dock workers, Outer Continental Shelf workers, and other maritime employees not covered by the Jones Act.
Pursuing a Jones Act or LHWCA claim is a time sensitive and complex process. An experienced maritime attorney with knowledge of admiralty law is needed to assist a maritime employee in filing a Jones or Longshore Act claim.