What Maritime Workers Need to Know about Oil Tanker Injuries

by | Apr 3, 2023 | Offshore Accident, Personal Injury, Workplace Accident

Tankers are merchant vessels that carry liquids or gasses in large quantities. Most often, these massive ships carry crude oil, petroleum, or liquefied natural gas in large quantities. If an oil tanker accident happens, the results are catastrophic. Oil tanker injuries are common when accidents occur either onboard the tanker, or during a collision or other accident.

At Kherkher Garcia, LLP, our petrochemical injury lawyer has experienced just how devastating oil tanker accidents and injuries can be. We help workers injured on oil tankers understand their rights and the possible options they have for recovering compensation.

Below, we discuss oil tanker accidents and injuries, and what maritime workers should know if they are injured in an accident.

Examples of Oil Tanker Accidents

Oil tanker accidents occur for a variety of reasons. While fires and explosions are one of the most significant concerns, there are many possible accidents and incidents that can lead to injuries onboard an oil tanker. Some examples of the more common types of accidents include:

  • Collisions: Oil tankers are large and slow-moving, and they are often involved in collisions with other ships, reefs, or other obstacles.
  • Groundings: Oil tankers can also run aground on reefs or shoals. This can happen due to human error, bad weather, or mechanical failure.
  • Fires and Explosions: Oil tankers are a major fire hazard, and they are also vulnerable to explosions. These accidents can be caused by a variety of factors, including electrical fires, collisions, and sabotage.
  • Leaks: Oil tankers can also leak oil, which can pollute the environment and cause damage to marine life. Leaks can be caused by a variety of factors, including mechanical failure, collisions, and sabotage.
  • Engine Room Problems: The engine room on a tanker is filled with machinery and important systems. The uneven surfaces and cramped spaces are hazardous to those working nearby. Problems that may cause injuries in the engine room include excessive heat, electrical problems, boiler malfunctions, and fires.

Oil tanker accidents can have a devastating impact on the environment and on human health. They can also lead to significant financial losses. It is important to take steps to prevent oil tanker accidents, and to respond quickly and effectively when they do occur.

Common Causes of Oil Tanker Injuries

When we think of tanker accidents, we tend to picture the most catastrophic accidents that make the news. But there are actually a lot of different scenarios that can lead to injuries onboard a tanker. The causes of oil tanker injuries vary depending on the type of accident and other related factors. Some of the more common factors that lead to oil tanker injuries, include:

  1. Human Error: This can include errors in judgment, miscommunication, lack of training, and failure to follow established safety procedures.
  2. Equipment Failure: Equipment failure can occur due to lack of maintenance, defects, or malfunction.
  3. Adverse Weather Conditions: Weather conditions such as storms, high winds, and rough seas can make it difficult to carry out safe operations on an oil tanker, which can increase the risk of injuries.
  4. Cargo Operations: Cargo operations involve complex processes and require close coordination among the crew. Improper handling of cargo, such as overloading, improper stowage, and cargo shifting, can lead to accidents and injuries.
  5. Fires and Explosions: Fires and explosions can occur due to a variety of factors, such as equipment failure, fuel leaks, and electrical malfunctions.
  6. Chemical Exposure: Exposure to hazardous chemicals can cause burns, respiratory problems, and other serious health issues.
  7. Slippery Surfaces: Slippery surfaces can cause slips, trips, and falls, which can lead to fractures, cuts, and other injuries.

It is important to note that preventing oil tanker injuries requires a comprehensive approach that involves identifying and addressing the underlying causes, implementing effective safety measures and protocols, and providing adequate training and resources to the crew.

Types of Injuries Maritime Workers May Sustain on Oil Tankers

Oil tanker injuries can be caused by various factors, like those listed above. These accidents can be a significant cause of injuries. In the worst cases, accidents can cause death to one, or even multiple, people onboard.

Some of the most common oil tanker injuries that maritime workers report include:

  • Burns: Burns can occur due to exposure to hot steam, hot oil, flames during cargo operations or maintenance activities, or fire or explosion during an accident.
  • Fractures and Broken Bones: Fractures and broken bones can occur on oil tankers due to slips, trips, and falls on slippery surfaces, uneven decks, or during rough weather conditions.
  • Crush Injuries: Maritime workers often must work in cramped spaces or between pieces of machinery. If something goes wrong or equipment malfunctions or breaks down, workers are at risk for crush injuries.
  • Cuts and Lacerations: Cuts and lacerations can occur due to contact with sharp edges, tools, or machinery.
  • Sprains and Strains: Sprains and strains can occur due to heavy lifting or awkward movements during cargo operations, maintenance, or routine movement about the ship.
  • Head Injuries: Head injuries can occur due to falls, being struck by falling objects during cargo operations or maintenance activities, falling overboard, or being struck by machinery.
  • Chemical Exposure: Exposure to toxic chemicals can cause chemical burns, respiratory problems, and other serious health issues.
  • Noise-Induced Hearing Loss: Exposure to high levels of noise from machinery or engines can cause hearing loss over time.
  • Drowning: If the tanker lists in rough seas, capsizes, or sinks, workers are at an immediate risk of drowning. This is an especially high risk for workers who are in cramped environments who may not be able to quickly escape. There is also a risk of working above deck and falling or being knocked off the ship.
  • Hypothermia: Maritime workers often work in poor weather conditions. Rain, snow, wind, ice, and rough seas can quickly drop body temperatures to dangerous levels. Furthermore, a fall overboard even for a few minutes, could result in hypothermia.

It is important to note that the risks associated with working on an oil tanker are high. Safety precautions and training are essential to prevent injuries and protect the crew’s health and well-being.

Legal Protections for Maritime Workers

Maritime law, also known as Admiralty Law, is a set of state and federal laws that govern the maritime industry. For maritime workers, there are maritime laws that provide benefits and compensation if they are injured while in the course of their work in the maritime industry – onboard of vessel or at a port, dock, or shipyard. The following maritime laws are the most relevant to oil tanker accidents and injuries:

The Jones Act

The Jones Act is a federal law providing regulations for industries operating in U.S. waters and ports. This law protects seamen who are injured while working in maritime industries. Workers who may qualify for benefits under The Jones Act include:

  • Fishermen
  • Stewards
  • Deckhands
  • Engineers
  • Captains
  • Mates
  • Pilots
  • Divers
  • Anchors

Maritime workers who are injured while on navigable waters while contributing to operation of a vessel may be eligible for benefits, such as:

  • Medical Expenses
  • Lost Wages
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Punitive Damages

Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) is another federal law that provides benefits for certain maritime workers. The LHWCA applies to longshoremen, shipyard workers, harbor workers and other non-seamen workers. Workers who qualify for benefits can receive temporary supplemental income, medical expense coverage, and loss of earning capacity. If the worker dies, the LHWCA also provides survivor’s benefits for their family.

Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA)

If a seaman die while working on a ship deemed unseaworthy, or if negligence was involved in their death, the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) may provide benefits for the surviving family. Under the DOHSA, families can file a lawsuit against parties whose negligence caused the death. Compensation under DOHSA claims include:

  • Loss of Financial Support
  • Funeral Expenses
  • Counseling Expenses

Preventing Oil Tanker Accidents and Injuries

Working in the maritime industry has inherent risks and hazards. There are things that maritime employers and employees can do to prevent accidents and injuries. Some of the best safety and prevention tips include the following:

  • Proper Training: All crew members should be properly trained in safety procedures and should be familiar with the ship’s equipment.
  • Maintain the Ship: Oil tankers should be properly maintained and should be inspected regularly for any potential problems.
  • Follow Safety Procedures: All crew members should follow safety procedures at all times. It is the responsibility of employers to provide safety training, personal protective equipment (PPE), and supervision for adherence to safety procedures.
  • Environmental Awareness: Onboard oil tankers, the crew should be aware of the environment and should take steps to avoid accidents. Environmental awareness includes weather conditions, function of the ship and machinery, and assessing potential risks.

What to do After an Oil Tanker Accident

If an oil tanker accident does occur, it is important to respond quickly and effectively. This is important not only for the safety of those involved, but also in order to protect your legal rights. Here are some tips for responding to an oil tanker accident:

  • Report the Accident: Any accident involving oil tanker injuries should be reported to the supervisor as soon as possible. Failing to report an accident could damage your ability to seek benefits or compensation.
  • Get Medical Attention: No matter how “minor” or “severe” your injuries may seem, it is best to get medical attention after any on-the-job injury. Your ability to qualify for benefits may depend on an accurate account of your injuries and any related expenses.
  • Document the Accident: As best as you are able, document the accident and your injuries. Consider what factors led to the accident, who was involved, when it happened, etc. Take photos if possible of the area where the accident occurred.
  • Contact a Maritime Injury Lawyer: In order to obtain the benefits that you are entitled to under maritime law, it is best to contact a maritime injury lawyer as soon as possible. A maritime injury lawyer will evaluate your accident and injuries, inform you of your legal rights, and explore your options for recovery.

Prioritizing Safety and Protecting Your Rights as a Maritime Worker

The maritime industry is one of the most dangerous in the world. For injury victims, understanding their rights and options for compensation can be complicated or overwhelming. That’s why Kherkher Garcia is here. With more than 30 years of experience helping injury victims, we know how to help you and your family protect your rights and get the benefits that you deserve.

Before speaking with an insurance company or signing a statement for your employer, contact our maritime lawyers to discuss your case. Maritime law is highly specialized, and to maximize your benefits and/or compensation, you need to know all your options. Kherkher Garcia can help.

Find out more by calling us at 713-333-1030 for a free consultation, or complete our online form.

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Steve Kherkher

Steve Kherkher

Founding Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Founding Firm Partner Steve Kherkher. Steve has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 30 years. He has won $300 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. He is a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been catastrophically injured.

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