If you work in the maritime industry, you should know that repetitive use injuries may be covered by the same maritime laws as other injuries. If you have an injury that developed while working in a maritime occupation, Kherkher Garcia, LLP can help. Our maritime injury lawyers can help you understand your legal rights and any options you may have to pursue compensation for your injuries.
Below, we offer information about repetitive use injuries that are common in the maritime industry, who is at risk, the symptoms, and what to do after a maritime injury.
What are Some Common Repetitive Use Injuries in the Maritime Industry?
Repetitive use injuries are a common problem in the maritime industry due to the physically demanding nature of the work. Most often, repetitive use injuries develop in the arm, wrist, back, neck, hips, feet, and ankles. These injuries develop over time, and may not be immediately noticeable as a serious or long-lasting problem.
Here are some of the most common repetitive use injuries that occur in maritime occupations:
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
This condition is caused by pressure on the median nerve in the wrist, which can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in the hand and fingers. It is often caused by repetitive motions such as gripping tools, twisting valves, and using a keyboard.
This is an inflammation of the tendons, which can cause pain and swelling in the affected area. Tendinitis is often caused by repetitive motions such as lifting heavy objects, pulling ropes, and using tools.
This condition is caused by overuse of the forearm muscles and tendons, which can cause pain and weakness in the elbow and forearm. It is often caused by activities such as gripping tools, lifting heavy objects, and repetitive arm motions.
Repetitive lifting, twisting, and bending can cause back injuries such as strains, sprains, and herniated discs. These injuries can cause pain, limited mobility, and even permanent disability in some cases.
Knee injuries can occur due to repetitive kneeling, squatting, and crawling. These activities can cause knee pain, swelling, and even cartilage damage.
It is important for maritime workers to take steps to prevent these injuries, such as using ergonomic tools, taking frequent breaks, and using proper lifting techniques. Workers should also report any symptoms of repetitive use injuries to their employer and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
What are the Symptoms of a Repetitive Use Injury?
One of the complicated aspects of repetitive use injuries is that there is often no outward sign of an injury. This can make it difficult to recognize a more serious injury and get an accurate diagnosis. It is important that maritime workers monitor any persistent symptoms they experience in a localized area of the body and get medical attention if symptoms linger or get worse.
Repetitive use injuries can cause a variety of symptoms, including:
- Difficulty moving the affected area
- Swelling or redness of the affected area
- Loss of strength and flexibility
Who is At Risk?
Many jobs in the maritime industry involve repetitive motions that can lead to repetitive use injuries. Here are some jobs that are particularly prone to these types of injuries:
- Deckhands: Deckhands are responsible for a variety of tasks, such as tying and untying lines, handling cargo, and cleaning the deck. These tasks involve repetitive motions such as bending, lifting, and pulling, which can cause injuries to the back, shoulders, and knees.
- Engineers: Engineers are responsible for the operation and maintenance of the vessel’s machinery, which can involve repetitive motions such as turning valves, operating levers, and adjusting controls. These tasks can cause injuries to the hands, wrists, and elbows.
- Welders: Welders are responsible for repairing and maintaining the vessel’s metal structures. This job involves repetitive motions such as holding a welding torch and moving it back and forth, which can cause injuries to the arms, shoulders, and neck.
- Fishermen: Fishing is a physically demanding job that involves repetitive motions such as pulling nets, lifting heavy fish, and standing for long periods of time. These tasks can cause injuries to the back, shoulders, and knees.
- Longshoremen: Longshoremen are responsible for loading and unloading cargo from ships. This job involves repetitive motions such as lifting, carrying, and stacking cargo, which can cause injuries to the back, shoulders, and knees.
It is important for workers in these and other maritime jobs to take steps to prevent repetitive use injuries, such as using proper lifting techniques, taking frequent breaks, and using ergonomic tools. Workers should also report any symptoms of repetitive use injuries to their employer and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Treatment of Repetitive Use Injuries
Treatment options for repetitive use injuries depend on the type and severity of the injury. Some of the more common general treatments for these injuries include:
- Rest: Resting the affected area is important to allow the injured tissues to heal. This may involve taking a break from work or reducing the amount of repetitive activity.
- Physical Therapy: Physical therapy can help to restore mobility, strength, and flexibility in the affected area. It may involve exercises, stretches, and other treatments such as massage and heat therapy.
- Medications: Over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. In some cases, prescription medications may be necessary.
- Surgery: In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the damaged tissues. This is typically a last resort and is only considered when other treatments have not been effective.
- Assistive Devices: In some cases, assistive devices such as braces or splints may be used to help support the injured area and reduce strain on the tissues.
It is important to seek medical attention if you suspect you have a repetitive use injury. Early treatment can help prevent the injury from becoming worse and can help you return to work more quickly. With adequate and timely treatment, many people recover completely. With the right preventative measures, it is also possible to prevent re-injury or more serious injuries.
How to Prevent Repetitive Use Injuries
Repetitive use injuries are preventable in many cases. Strategies that are effective to prevent these injuries include:
- Use Ergonomic Tools and Equipment: Ergonomic tools are designed to reduce strain on the body and can help prevent injuries. This can include using tools with handles that fit your grip, using equipment that can be adjusted to your height and posture, and using equipment with shock-absorbing features.
- Take Frequent Breaks: Taking short, frequent breaks can help prevent overuse injuries. It can also help to switch between different tasks throughout the day to prevent one area of the body from being overworked.
- Use Proper Lifting Techniques: Lifting heavy objects improperly can cause injuries to the back, shoulders, and knees. Workers should use proper lifting techniques, such as keeping the back straight, bending at the knees, and lifting with the legs rather than the back.
- Stay Physically Fit: Regular exercise can help prevent injuries by strengthening the muscles and improving flexibility. It is also important to maintain a healthy weight to reduce stress on the joints.
- Report Symptoms Early: It is important to report any symptoms of repetitive use injuries to your employer or supervisor as soon as possible. Early treatment can help prevent the injury from becoming worse.
Employers can also take steps to prevent repetitive use injuries, such as providing ergonomic equipment, training workers on proper techniques, and implementing policies that promote breaks and rotations between tasks.
What to Do after a Maritime Injury
If you have a maritime injury resulting in lost time at work, medical expenses, or other stresses, you should contact a maritime injury lawyer to discuss your situation. You may be entitled to benefits under maritime law, such as maintenance and cure. You may also be covered under laws that allow you to recover compensation for expenses and lost wages, such as The Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).
The best way to know what your options are is to work with a skilled lawyer. At Kherkher Garcia, we have more than three decades of experience helping maritime workers protect their rights and access the benefits and compensation they are entitled to. To find out more about your rights and options, call us today for a free consultation at 713-333-1030.