In a sobering revelation for the maritime industry, energy giant Shell and offshore access solutions provider Ampelmann find themselves facing fines in the aftermath of a distressing incident involving crush injuries. The incident, marked by its implications for workplace safety and the wellbeing of maritime workers, underscores the critical need for a thorough reassessment of safety protocols within the industry.
Maritime workers are exposed to hazards due to the nature of their occupation. It is the responsibility of employers and supervisors to ensure a safe working environment, appropriate training, and access to personal protective equipment (PPE). When these responsibilities fail, workers are left at risk for serious, life-altering injuries.
At Kherkher Garcia, we have spent more than three decades helping maritime workers secure compensation for injuries caused by negligence. We understand the profound impact of crush injuries for victims and their loved ones. Below, our offshore injury lawyers provide information about crush injuries, their impact, and how you can get help pursuing justice.
Worker’s Feet Crushed on Gangway
In October, 2017, Martin Hill was a maintenance worker being transferred from the Kroonborg support ship to Shell’s Galleon PG offshore rig. Despite high winds and heavy seas, the transfer was initiated and workers were tasked with navigating the gangway in poor conditions, including inadequate lighting. The gangway on offshore rigs are designed to telescope so that the bridge stays full even if the distance between the rig and the ship changes.
According to reports, as Hill made his way across the gangway, the bridge telescoped inward catching both of his feet between the sections of the gangway. He was unable to free himself, and suffered extensive injuries. He was airlifted to a hospital where he was diagnosed with extensive crush injuries and removal of most of the skin on his feet.
Now, seven years later, Hill continues to struggle with the consequences of his injuries. He has difficulty walking and experiences chronic pain. He did not return to offshore work following the incident.
Shell and Ampelmann Fined
The U.K. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) initiated an investigation into the incident and found that workers using the Ampelmann gangways were not sufficiently protected from entrapment and injuries where the gangway telescopes. Additionally, the HSE found that Shell did not provide adequate training and instructions to workers. They stated that Shell’s instructions “were inconsistent and confusing and spread across several documents. They were not understood by those operating.”
Shell and Ampelmann were fined more than £1.2 million (approximately $1.5 million USD). The HSE hopes that these fines deter companies from being similarly negligent in their design, instructions, and supervision of such equipment.
Common Causes of Crush Injuries in the Maritime Industry
Crush injuries in the maritime industry can occur due to various factors and situations. Some common causes include:
- Machinery Accidents: Crush injuries may result from accidents involving heavy machinery such as cranes, winches, or conveyor systems.
- Falling Objects: Workers may be at risk of crush injuries if they are struck by falling objects or equipment. This can happen during loading and unloading operations or due to improper storage of cargo.
- Pinch Points: Workers may get caught in pinch points between moving parts of machinery or equipment, leading to crush injuries. These pinch points can be present in various maritime operations.
- Vessel Collisions: Collisions between vessels or between a vessel and a pier can result in crush injuries, especially if individuals are caught between the vessels or against structures.
- Mooring Accidents: Crush injuries may occur during mooring operations when handling ropes, lines, or other equipment if proper safety precautions are not followed.
- Cargo Handling: Improper handling of cargo, including lifting and moving heavy loads, can lead to crush injuries. This is particularly relevant during loading and unloading operations.
- Equipment Malfunctions: Malfunctions or failures of equipment, such as hydraulic systems, can result in unexpected movements that may lead to crush injuries.
- Inadequate Training and Procedures: Lack of proper training and adherence to safety procedures can contribute to crush injuries. Workers need to be aware of potential hazards and follow established safety protocols.
It is crucial for maritime industry employers to implement comprehensive safety measures, provide adequate training, and enforce strict adherence to safety protocols to minimize the risk of crush injuries. Regular equipment inspections and maintenance also play a vital role in preventing accidents in the maritime workplace.
Impact of Crush Injuries on Maritime Workers
The treatment, complications, and long-term impact of crush injuries can vary depending on the severity of the injury, the body parts affected, and the promptness of medical intervention. Treating crush injuries will depend on the nature and extent of the injuries. Generally, treatment may include the following:
- Emergency Care: Immediate attention is crucial to prevent further injury and complications. Emergency responders may focus on stabilizing the patient, addressing life-threatening conditions, and providing initial pain relief.
- Medical Evaluation: A thorough medical examination is conducted to assess the extent of the crush injury. Diagnostic imaging, such as X-rays or CT scans, may be used to identify fractures, soft tissue damage, or internal injuries.
- Wound Care: Open wounds or lacerations are cleaned, and appropriate wound care is administered to prevent infection.
- Surgery: Surgical intervention may be necessary to repair damaged tissues, including muscles, tendons, and blood vessels.
- Pain Management: Pain relief measures, including analgesics, may be prescribed to manage pain associated with the injury.
- Immobilization: Splints or casts may be used to immobilize fractured bones and support the healing process.
- Surgical Intervention: In severe cases, surgery may be required to address internal injuries, reconstruct damaged tissues, or remove debris from the injury site.
- Rehabilitation: Physical therapy is often a crucial component of recovery to restore mobility, strength, and function. Occupational therapy may be recommended to assist with activities of daily living.
Complications of crush injuries can vary, and can have a devastating impact on the life of the victim. Some potential complications from these injuries include:
- Compartment Syndrome: Swelling and increased pressure within muscles may lead to compartment syndrome, causing pain and potentially affecting blood flow.
- Infections: Open wounds are susceptible to infections. Prompt wound care and administration of antibiotics are essential.
- Nerve Damage: Crush injuries can damage nerves, leading to sensory and motor deficits.
- Vascular Complications: Damage to blood vessels may result in impaired blood flow, potentially leading to ischemia or necrosis.
- Long-Term Disabilities: Severe crush injuries may result in long-term disabilities, affecting the individual’s ability to perform certain activities or maintain employment.
Like any serious injury, crush injuries have the potential to impact the victim’s life for an extended period of time. As in the example above, the patient is still battling the effects of crush injuries seven years later. Some of the common long-term impacts of crush injuries include:
- Chronic Pain: Some individuals may experience chronic pain even after the initial healing process.
- Functional Impairments: Long-term disabilities may impact the affected individual’s ability to perform certain movements or tasks.
- Psychological Impact: Coping with the aftermath of a crush injury, especially if it results in disability, can have psychological implications such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress.
- Rehabilitation Challenges: Achieving optimal rehabilitation may be a prolonged process, and individuals may face challenges in adapting to changes in physical abilities.
It is important to note that the long-term impact of crush injuries can vary widely, and individual cases may require a multidisciplinary approach involving medical professionals, rehabilitation specialists, and mental health support to address the unique needs of each patient. Early and comprehensive medical intervention is crucial for improving outcomes and minimizing long-term complications.
Get Help with Your Crush Injuries
The Shell and Ampelmann case serves as a reminder that there is room for the maritime industry to improve upon safety measures. When maritime workers are injured due to negligence, they deserve the opportunity to fight back, protect their rights, and obtain compensation for their injuries. Crush injuries are catastrophic and life-changing, and victims deserve justice.
At Kherkher Garcia, our offshore injury lawyers know how to build a strong case and get clients the compensation they deserve. If you are suffering crush injuries due to negligence, we can help. Find out more by contacting us for a free consultation. Call 713-333-1030, or fill out our contact form to reach us online.
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