January 23, 2016

Top 10 Dangers of Maritime Work

The maritime industry is currently seeing a boom in job opportunities, thanks in large part to the rise of e-commerce, globalization, and global warming. (The imminent threat of rising sea levels translates to future expansion and up-keep of waterways, such as the recent expansion of the Panama Canal).

There are plenty of benefits to having a maritime career: a six-figure salary without the accompanying student loans, travel opportunities, healthcare coverage, and a challenging work environment. But this same benefit - a challenging work environment - is also the industry’s greatest downfall. Simply put, maritime jobs are dangerous.

If you’re considering a career in the maritime industry, you’ll have to face the fact that the slightest mistake could cause you significant injury. While it’s true that a well-trained crew is less likely to make critical safety errors, accidents can and do happen.

Whether you’re a deckhand, longshoreman, oil rig driller, harbor pilot, ship engineer or medic, here are some of the dangers you’ll face over the course of your career:
  1. Extreme Working Conditions – not only is there the temperamental sea to contend with, as she rocks, rolls and storms; there’s the boats themselves. Depending on the type of vessel, you may find yourself working in high open spaces or cramped, tight quarters in sweaty, humid conditions.
  2. Erratic Time Schedules – from seafarers to deckhands to harbor pilots, the maritime industry runs 24/7 and workers must be available exactly when they’re needed. Some jobs, like offshore work, will have a two-weeks-on-three-weeks-off kind of schedule; but none of these positions are classic 9-to-5 office routines. Sometimes there is very little opportunity for sleep between shifts, and tired and exhausted workers are more likely to make mistakes than well-rested ones.
  3. Slip and Falls – sleek surfaces, the motion of the ocean and lack of non-skid protectants make slip and fall injuries quite a common occurrence aboard vessels. In fact, the Occupational Health & Safety Administration reports slip and falls while working are second only to car accidents in cases of accidental death. Broken bones, multiple fractures, head injuries and drowning are some of the injuries a slip and fall could cause.
  4. Asbestosis and Mesothelioma – shipyard workers and ship builders are exposed to high levels of asbestos. Inhaling such large quantities of these materials can result in lung disease, severe fibrosis and lead to a form of cancer called mesothelioma.
  5. Stress-related Illnesses – safety constraints, erratic work schedules, confined living spaces, lack of privacy, and isolation from family and friends can have negative impacts on a seaman or maritime worker’s health. Emotional distress can cause physical pain. Even witnessing a colleague have a severe accident can induce a stress-related illness, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
  6. Chemical Hazards – ships, barges and oil rig platforms handle some of the world’s most dangerous chemicals. Highly flammable, corrosive or explosive chemicals can spill onto a worker, resulting in severe burns or loss of limb function.
  7. Fires and Electricity – the engine room requires the skill of engineers to control the ships primary functions. Unfortunately, if these machines are not properly maintained, the result could be explosions and fires that injure workers, as well as the ship itself.
  8. Substandard or Older Vessels – also known as unseaworthiness, ships in poor condition are prime suspects in worker injuries. If the ship’s substandard condition can be linked to your injury, this may be grounds for a Jones Act claim.
  9. Kidnapping or Piracy – working offshore offers plenty of opportunity for international travel. However, the risks for being on-boarded by pirates and other acts of terrorism increase depending on the territory. In the U.S., Greenpeace and other environmental activists have been known to disrupt oil platform activities.
  10. Salvage Diving – any time there’s a leak, crash, fire or sunk vessel, a marine diver is called in to fix the problem. Salvage diving is dangerous due to both underwater working conditions and the tools necessary to solve issues. Drowning, getting lost, being crushed by falling objects, and underwater explosions are just some of the risks of this highly complicated job.

Despite the risks, the time away from family and friends and the demanding pressures of the workplace, a job in the maritime industry is rewarding on many levels. Not only will it allow you to provide a better life for your family, you can feel good knowing you make a vital contribution to our nation’s economy.

If you find yourself injured on the job, an experienced maritime attorney can help you navigate the law and recover compensation. The attorneys at Pierce | Skrabanek have been serving seamen, longshoremen, deckhands, engineers and other maritime workers of Texas to get them the help they deserve when they’ve been hurt on the job. Please do not hesitate to contact us for a free case evaluation.

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