Longshore workers need to avoid three fatal mistakes

| Dec 16, 2019 | Maritime Law |

Longshoring is often dangerous. The work is tough and physical. Workers need to navigate large machines and tight spaces. They may work with cargo full of harmful chemicals. One wrong move could lead to serious injury or even death.

That’s why longshoring workers and the other people who work at Louisiana’s docks, piers and marine terminals face a fatality rate five times higher than the national average. If you’re one of these workers, you want to be careful. Knowing how other workers have died may help you avoid making the same mistakes.

The three most fatal risks

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reviews different data to look for ways to make America’s workplaces safer. This includes data on workplace fatalities. According to OSHA, the fatalities that occur at marine terminals fall largely into three categories:

  • Vehicular accidents. This is the leading cause of workplace deaths for longshoring workers. Terminals are often busy places, buzzing with forklifts, front-end loaders, semi tractors, railcars and other heavy vehicles. Workers near these vehicles want to make sure that they’re clearly visible and the drivers are paying attention. Fatal accidents often involve issues with poor visibility, missing or defective safety devices or bad drivers.
  • Falls and drowning accidents. Cold, choppy water or soaked, heavy clothing can take down even the strongest swimmers. That’s why you want to wear your life vest near the water. The drownings mostly involved people who didn’t, and the sites often lacked adequate life rings. Meanwhile, you want to pay attention to your surroundings anytime you’re going to climb ladders or work up high. Many of the fatal falls that OSHA reported happened because ladders, catwalks and other things fell apart.
  • Material handling accidents. The third most common cause of maritime terminal deaths. These often involve workers who were crushed to death by heavy, falling objects. OSHA’s case review often cites objects that were “improperly stacked,” “improperly secured” or “incorrect.” This suggests workers need to avoid taking shortcuts. If you suspect something wasn’t done correctly, it might be worth double checking.

Fortunately, these accidents aren’t always fatal. Even so, they can often lead to serious injuries, and if you work at a maritime terminal, you’re twice as likely to be hurt on the job as workers elsewhere.

After an accident

A serious accident can keep you away from your work and income. Fatal accidents can cripple whole families. But while most workers might turn to workers’ compensation, you might be covered under maritime law.

To check if your case should be covered under maritime law, please contact us at St. Martin & Bourque.