Dredging Accidents

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Many maritime workers appreciate being tested by their demanding work and take pride in what they do. Workers on dredges are no exception.

Dredges are vessels that gather up sediment on the bottom of a riverbed or shallow coastal area to make the waters more navigable. Deepening a waterway channel is essential to boosting trade and the economy. This important work can be dangerous though, requiring the use of specialized heavy machinery. Cranes, propellers and grabbers are just some of the equipment that can cause injuries or even death to a dredge worker just trying to do their job. In some cases, these accidents could have been prevented, with the vessel’s unseaworthiness or management’s negligence to blame.

Sustaining an injury on a dredger is painful and can be catastrophic. In November 2015, a worker in Port Canaveral lost parts of both his legs in a dredging accident – a daunting reminder of the dangers that come with this profession. Fortunately, workers or any vessel associated with a dredging project are protected by law and can seek compensation. Maritime law allows for compensation for on-the-job injuries. The Jones Act also gives injured seamen the rights to file claims against employers if their recklessness makes a vessel not fit for sea, or contributed in another way to the accident.

A reputable maritime attorney can be your ally in getting the full compensation you deserve and proving that an employer’s carelessness is to blame for your accident. Pierce Skrabanek are maritime attorneys in Houston with a proven record of winning fair compensation for victims.

Why Is Dredging Dangerous?

Dredgers are custom built and outfitted with machinery that digs or sucks up rocks, sediment, and anything else that settles at the bottom of a waterway. Each piece of machinery is used to perform a specific task – be it the removal of silt or harvesting shellfish. Workers must be trained to operate this equipment to avoid devastating injuries.

Main Types of Dredgers

  • Suction (vacuum)– there are a number of suction dredging types, but all of them work on the basis of sucking sediment through a long tube.
  • Bucket – these excavate a river or seabed with the use of buckets, which usually circulate on a wheel or chain.
  • Clamshell – a clamshell bucket is shaped like its namesake, and hangs from a crane. They are used to remove thick, soft bay mud.
  • Backhoe/dipper – this type of excavating equipment consists of a digging bucket that may be mounted on a pontoon.
  • Bed levelers –consist of a bar or blade that is pulled across the seabed, mimicking the effects of a bulldozer on land.
  • Snagboats – this is a river boat with deck-mounted cranes that remove trees and other large debris from the water.
  • Fishing – dredges used for fishing feature a scoop made of chain mesh that catches various types of shellfish from the seabed.

Common Dredging Accident Injuries

With this diversity of machinery comes a variety of ways to be harmed. A crane operator may lose focus and cause the machine to drop a heavy object on an unsuspecting worker. A dredge could rupture an underwater gas line, leading to an explosion that severely burns crewmembers. A worker may lose a finger or suffer a crushing injury if their hand is pinned while operating a dredge pipe. A seaman could be exposed to dangerous substances or pollutants that are stirred up when the sediment is disturbed during dredging activities.

What’s more, working on a dredge is physically demanding and may be performed over long hours. Maritime work doesn’t halt for gray skies, wind or rain. Inclement weather is just another stress factor that dredge workers must take into account when doing their jobs. Take all of this together and it’s no wonder that dredge workers can sustain virtually any kind of accident, including:

  • Slip and falls
  • Falling materials or objects
  • Back or shoulder injuries
  • Head injuries
  • Amputation
  • Knee, ankle or joint injuries
  • Crushing injuries
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
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What to Do after a Dredging Accident

Perhaps you or a loved one have been injured while working on a dredging vessel, or fallen ill due to dangerous work conditions, and now you’re wondering what to do. To protect your personal interests, you should immediately seek medical care and tell your supervisor.

We cannot stress enough the importance of getting medical attention as soon as possible. This is critical to your health and will also help your personal injury claim. A gap in care can make it hard to later prove that your injuries were the result of an accident on-the-job.

In many cases, it is advisable to consult a reputable maritime attorney. With an attorney fighting on your behalf, you are much more likely to get the full amount of compensation you are due.

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The Law Is On Your Side

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that a dredge meets the definition of a vessel under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. Many dredge workers also qualify as Jones Act seamen under the law. In other words, there are many legal protections for dredge workers, including the right to sue a vessel owner if a serious injury was inflicted by the owner’s negligence.

Dredges have different types of owners. Some are operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, while others are run by private companies. Some of the bigger maritime companies that operate dredges include American Underwater Services, Coastal Dredging Co, and Orion Marine Group.

Understanding which laws apply to your case, how you can go after employers, and building a case that wins all requires legal skill. Not hiring an attorney can be a costly gamble on your future; you may not get all the money you need to heal.


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Let Us Help You Today

We want to speak with you if you or someone you love has been injured while working on a dredge. You have legal options – under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, the Jones Act, and general maritime law – and we want to explain those options to you and get you on the road to recovery.

Contact us today at 832-690-7000 for your free case review.

Frequently Asked Questions

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