When you think about hazards in the maritime industry, slips and falls may not seem like as much of a threat as other hazards that cause catastrophic injuries. The reality, however, is that slip and fall hazards are among the leading causes of injury among maritime workers.
The maritime injury lawyers at Kherkher Garcia, LLP have worked with numerous clients in the maritime industry who have been seriously injured in slip and fall accidents. We want maritime workers and their families to understand the risk of slip and fall hazards, and know that help is available if an injury occurs.
Read on to learn more about the causes of slips and falls, injuries that often result, and how to get help after an injury.
How Common are Maritime Slip and Fall Accidents?
According to a report in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, slip, trip, and fall injuries account for 43% of reported injuries in seafaring occupations. The injuries sustained from slip and fall accidents varied widely, ranging from minor injuries to severe or catastrophic injuries.
Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and fall injuries are a common hazard in the maritime industry because workers may be exposed to hazardous conditions and other factors. Some of the most common causes of slip and fall accidents include:
- Wet or slippery surfaces
- Rough seas
- Poor weather conditions
- Insecure cargo
- Poor lighting
- Worn out ladders or steps
- Leaking oil, fluid, or chemicals
Many of the factors that cause slip and fall accidents are preventable. Companies and employers are required to provide adequate training and safety gear, and follow applicable safety guidelines. When they fail to do so, they compromise safety and put workers at risk.
Slip and Fall Hazards for Maritime Workers
Slip and fall accidents in the maritime industry often cause serious injuries. Unlike slipping or falling while on land, there are numerous hazards on ships that can make a fall more catastrophic. Some of the more common types of slip and fall injuries that occur in the maritime environment include:
Back and Spinal Cord Injuries
Slip and fall accidents can result in serious back and spinal cord injuries. Often, these injuries cause short- and long-term damage, such as:
- Herniated disks
- Fractured vertebrae
- Pinched nerves
- Torn ligaments
Individuals with a history of back or spinal injuries are more likely to suffer serious, long-term injuries.
A fall on a hard surface or striking an object while falling can lead to serious head injuries, including:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Skull fractures
- Memory loss
- Cognitive issues
- Brain bruising or hemorrhage
Head injuries can be difficult to detect if there are no visible injuries to the scalp or skull. These “closed head injuries” can lead to serious complications without immediate treatment.
Fractures and Broken Bones
When a slip and fall occurs, your entire body is at risk for injury. Fractures and broken bones are essentially the same injury, but there are varying degrees of fracture and severity. Such injuries are common in slip and fall accidents, especially when falling at an awkward angle, or falling into objects. Falls onboard maritime vessels often result in:
- Stable fracture: A clean break without the bones shifting.
- Displaced fracture: A fracture where the bones shit relative to one another.
- Open fracture: A fracture that breaks through the skin, often with the bone visible.
- Comminuted fracture: When the bone shatters into smaller pieces.
- Avulsion: When a fracture pulls the bone away from a tendon or ligament.
Sprains and Strains
Soft tissue injuries, such as sprains and strains, are incredibly common in slip and fall accidents. While these injuries may seem minor, they can be very painful and limit a worker’s mobility. Severe sprains and strains can even cause permanent damage.
- Sprains: Sprains occur when there is a stretch or minor tear to a ligament. Ligaments are the bands of soft tissue that connect bones at joints like the knee, ankle, shoulder, and wrist.
- Strains: Strains are more severe stretches or tears to tendons or muscles. Strains can cause damage to the tendon, muscle, blood vessels, and joints. Severe strains may require surgery to repair the damage and prevent complications.
Cuts and Lacerations
Falls onboard maritime vessels or in shipyards can result in cuts and lacerations. Falls often involve contact with hard surfaces, railings, equipment, machinery, tools, or other objects. This contact in a fall can lead to cuts and lacerations ranging from minor to severe, depending on the circumstances of the accident.
In the maritime industry, the harsh working conditions necessitate immediate treatment and protection of any open wound. Without immediate care, there is a high risk for bleeding, shock, and infection.
In some cases, slip and fall accidents are severe enough for the individual to fall overboard, or into the water. Unfortunately, a large number of drowning deaths in the maritime industry each year are due to preventable factors. Drowning in a slip and fall accident is most common if the individual strikes their head, becomes unconscious, or suffers injuries while falling that hinder their ability to swim or tread water.
The most common causes of drowning are due to inadequate training, improper use of safety equipment, and failure to provide floatation devices. Employers are required to provide adequate training and safety gear to workers who may be at risk for drowning. Sadly, this does not always happen, and the results are disastrous.
Preventing Slip and Fall Accidents and Injuries
Because of the significant risk of slip and fall accidents, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set guidelines for shipowners to protect workers from these hazards. Under OSHA guidelines, shipowners should do the following:
- Providing adequate training for workers
- Following proper safety procedures
- Wearing appropriate footwear
- Using handrails and guardrails
- Securing rails and openings with safety guards
- Installing non-skid materials on decks, steps, and ladders
- Ensuring personal floatation devices are onboard and in good working order
- Conducting routine safety drills
- Keeping decks clear of objects
- Properly securing cargo
It’s important for employers and workers in the maritime industry to take appropriate precautions to avoid slip and fall accidents. When employers fail to properly equip or secure a vessel and workers are injured as a result, the worker may be eligible for compensation under maritime law.
What Compensation is Available for Maritime Slip and Fall Injuries?
Maritime law protects workers in the maritime industry who suffer injury while in the course of their employment. These laws require that shipowners and employers take measures to protect workers and provide a safe working environment. Furthermore, these laws allow injured workers to pursue compensation if they are injured. Maritime laws relevant to slip and fall claims and compensation include:
- The Jones Act: If a shipowner or employer is negligent and fails to uphold safety guidelines, provide adequate training, or provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), seamen may be eligible for compensation for their injuries.
- Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA): Maritime workers who work on or near docks or shipyards can pursue compensation for injuries they sustain while in the course of their work.
- Maintenance and Cure: Maintenance and cure laws require shipowners to compensate workers for their injuries, medical expenses, and lost income while they recover.
Under these maritime laws, workers may be eligible for the following compensation:
- Medical care, nursing, and medical equipment
- Rehabilitation or long-term treatment
- Mental health treatment
- Lost wages or a loss of earning capacity
- Living expenses during recovery
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages
The laws that apply to your maritime case may depend on your occupation, job title, and the circumstances contributing to your injuries. A skilled maritime injury lawyer can help you explore your rights, the laws that apply to your case, and the compensation you may be eligible to pursue.
Contact a Maritime Injury Lawyer
Maritime workers have protection under maritime law if they suffer an injury due to the negligence of an employer or other party. It is important that workers in any maritime occupation understand their rights and potential options to recover compensation. At Kherkher Garcia, we are here to help. Our Jones Act maritime injury lawyers have more than 30 years of experience helping clients get the compensation they need after a maritime injury. At Kherkher Garcia, we are not afraid to take on even the largest maritime-related corporations. We have successfully recovered compensation for our clients in claims against Maersk, BP, Phillips 66, and others.
If you are injured as a result of a maritime slip and fall accident, contact us to find out how we can help. You may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost time at work, and pain and suffering. Get started learning more today by calling us at 713-333-1030 for a free consultation.