Cranes are large machines with parts that are vulnerable to degrading, defects, or improper maintenance. Furthermore, crane operators work in often harsh environments and weather conditions, which makes their job more dangerous. Inexperience or inadequate training for operating or working near cranes can be disastrous.
At Kherkher Garcia, LLP, our maritime offshore injury lawyers have witnessed the devastation of cargo and crane injuries. Victims and their families are often left bewildered – unsure of where to turn. We pride ourselves on providing more than just legal representation – we provide the support that victims and their families need to obtain compensation and justice.
Hazards Associated with Cranes
Cranes are an essential part of the maritime industry. They are often mounted on cargo ships or freighters, or may be installed on terminals. In some ports, cranes are moved from one dock to another as need arises. Because of their constant use and being subject to harsh conditions, cranes suffer a great deal of wear-and-tear. They must be properly maintained in order to operate safely and effectively.
There are safety regulations in place for the maintenance and operation of cranes. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that one in every 1,000 maritime crane operators will suffer a fatal injury. Unfortunately, many cargo and crane injuries could be avoided with proper care and attention.
There are many potential hazards when operating or working near cranes or moving cargo. There are three primary hazards, however, that are often associated with cargo and crane injuries. These hazards are:
Loading and unloading heavy or bulky cargo should be done by professionals. Operator errors can occur at any point in operation and can result in serious accidents or injuries. The most common operator errors we see in maritime injury cases include:
- Failure to ensure that cargo is balanced and loaded properly
- Failure to use tag lines and/or a spotter
- Operating the crane at higher-than-safe speeds
- Failure to routinely check for defects
- Failure to perform routine maintenance
Cranes are machines, and as such, have many moving parts. Their constant use in extreme conditions makes them vulnerable to fatigue, wear-and-tear, corrosion, fractures, and other problems. Without adequate maintenance these parts may stop working properly, which can lead to serious injuries. Employers are responsible for setting a maintenance schedule for cranes to ensure they are in safe working order.
Lack of Training
Proper training is essential for anyone working in the maritime industry. Crane operators and those working nearby should receive proper training on operation, maintenance, and safety procedures. Workers should know how to use equipment, recognize problems, report problems, and respond to an emergency situation.
What are the Causes of Cargo and Crane Injuries?
Within the scope of the three hazards we mention above, there are numerous potential causes for cargo and crane injuries. Some of the most common causes, include:
- Improper Loading or Unloading of Cargo: This can lead to cargo shifting, which can cause the crane to collapse or the cargo to fall on workers.
- Failure to Properly Secure Cargo: This can cause cargo to shift or fall, which can cause injuries to workers.
- Defective or Poorly Maintained Cranes: This can cause the crane to collapse or the cargo to fall, which can cause injuries to workers.
- Lack of Training or Supervision: This can lead to workers making mistakes, which can cause injuries.
- Fatigue: This can cause workers to make mistakes, which can cause injuries.
- Weather Conditions: Bad weather can cause problems with cranes and cargo, which can cause injuries.
What are the Most Common Crane-related Injuries?
There are many potential hazards when working with cranes, and the injuries that can occur vary depending on the situation. Here are some of the most common crane-related injuries:
- Struck by Falling Objects: This is the most common type of crane-related injury. Workers can be struck by falling objects such as the crane’s load, tools, or debris.
- Electrocution: Crane operators and workers can be electrocuted if the crane comes into contact with power lines or other electrical hazards.
- Caught In-Between: Workers can become caught in-between the crane and other objects or equipment, which can cause serious crush injuries.
- Falls: Workers can fall from heights while working on the crane or while accessing the crane. Falls from the crane cab or from the load can also occur.
- Accidents While Rigging: Workers can be injured while rigging the crane, such as being struck by the crane’s rigging components or being caught in the rigging.
- Overturn Incidents: Cranes can tip over if they are out of balance, or if the ground beneath them is unstable.
- Accidents During Maintenance: Workers can suffer injury while performing maintenance on the crane, such as being struck by moving parts or being caught in-between machinery.
These are just a few examples of the many potential crane-related injuries. It is important to follow all safety guidelines and take appropriate precautions when working with cranes to prevent accidents and injuries.
What are the Most Common Cargo-Related Injuries?
The maritime industry involves a wide range of cargo handling activities, which can present various hazards and risks to workers. Here are some of the most common cargo-related injuries in the maritime industry:
- Strains and Sprains: Workers can experience strains and sprains from repetitive motions or from lifting and moving heavy cargo.
- Falls: Falls from heights can occur while working on the cargo deck, loading and unloading cargo, or while accessing the cargo holds.
- Crush Injuries: Workers can be crushed by heavy cargo or equipment, or by equipment that is not properly secured.
- Caught-In-between Injuries: Workers can be caught in-between equipment or cargo, or can have their fingers or limbs pinched in machinery.
- Burns: Workers can be burned while handling cargo that is hot or contains hazardous materials.
- Toxic Exposure: Workers can be exposed to toxic chemicals or other hazardous materials while handling cargo.
- Slip, Trip, and Fall Injuries: Workers can slip, trip, or fall on wet or slippery surfaces while working on the cargo deck or in the cargo holds.
It is important for workers to follow proper safety procedures, use appropriate personal protective equipment, and receive proper training to prevent cargo-related injuries in the maritime industry. Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment and to ensure that workers are properly trained and equipped to handle cargo safely.
Safety Tips for Working Near Cranes and Cargo
Working near cranes can be dangerous if proper safety measures are not taken. Here are some important safety tips to follow when working near cranes:
- Keep a Safe Distance: Make sure to maintain a safe distance from the crane, its load, and its swing radius. Keep in mind that cranes can swing or move unexpectedly, so be alert and aware of your surroundings.
- Wear Appropriate PPE: Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as hard hats, safety glasses, high-visibility clothing, and steel-toed boots can protect you from hazards such as falling objects and debris.
- Follow Warning Signs: Warning signs and barriers are put in place for a reason. Make sure to obey all warning signs and stay clear of any restricted areas.
- Never Stand Under a Load: Never stand, work, or walk under a load that is being lifted or moved by a crane. A falling load can cause serious injuries or even death.
- Use Proper Hand Signals: Use standard hand signals to communicate with the crane operator, and make sure the operator can see you before you approach the crane.
- Ensure Cranes are Properly Maintained: Regularly check that the crane has proper inspections and maintenance, and report any issues or malfunctions to your supervisor or safety manager.
- Ensure the Ground is Stable: Make sure the ground beneath the crane is stable, level, and able to support the weight of the crane and its load. Soft or uneven ground can cause the crane to tip or become unstable.
By following these safety tips, you can help to prevent accidents and ensure a safe working environment when working near cranes.
What to do after a Cargo or Crane Injury
If you have been injured in a maritime cargo or crane accident, it is important to seek legal assistance. An experienced maritime injury lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and options. Seamen, deckhands, longshoremen, and other maritime workers may be eligible for compensation and other benefits if their injuries are the result of a negligent employer, co-worker, or other third party.
A maritime injury lawyer can carefully assess your case and determine if you have an actionable claim.
Contact a Maritime Injury Lawyer
At Kherkher Garcia, we know how devastating a maritime injury is for you and your family. We want you to know that we are here for you every step of the way. Our team has more than three decades of experience helping workers understand their rights and legal options, and obtain the benefits that they deserve.
Find out how we can help you by calling us at 713-333-1030 for a free consultation. You can also reach out to us online via our website contact form.