Ship owners and maritime employers are required to maintain a safe work environment, including taking measures to prevent accidents. If a maritime employee is injured due to a lack of adequate safety measures or negligence, they have rights and may be eligible for compensation.
If you have slip, trip, and fall injuries from your work in the maritime industry, contact the maritime offshore injury lawyers at Kherkher Garcia, LLP to find out your rights.
What are the Risks of Slips, Trips, and Falls?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists slips, trips, and falls as among the most common source of workplace injuries. The maritime industry is at a particularly high risk due to the fact that ships and docks are often crowded with cargo and exposed to water and weather.
OSHA identifies slipping and tripping hazards separately. It is important for maritime employers and employees to understand slip, trip, and fall hazards and how to prevent accidents and injuries.
What Does OSHA Consider a Slipping Hazard?
OSHA considers any condition that could cause someone to slip and potentially fall as a slipping hazard. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Wet or slippery floors
- Greasy or oily surfaces
- Loose or unsecured floor mats or rugs
- Weather hazards such as snow, ice, or rain
- Spills of liquids or powders
- Loose or poorly maintained flooring materials
- Poor lighting conditions that make it difficult to see potential hazards
Employers are responsible for identifying and addressing potential slipping hazards in the workplace to ensure the safety of their employees. They should implement measures such as keeping floors dry and clean, installing slip-resistant mats or flooring materials, and providing adequate lighting to minimize slipping hazards.
What Does OSHA Consider a Tripping Hazard?
OSHA considers any object or condition that could cause someone to trip and potentially fall as a tripping hazard. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Cluttered workspaces or areas with objects left on the floor
- Uneven walking surfaces, such as cracked or broken flooring or stairs
- Cords or cables that are not properly secured or managed
- Loose or frayed carpets or rugs
- Poor lighting conditions that make it difficult to see potential hazards
- Obstructed pathways or aisles
Employers are responsible for identifying and addressing potential tripping hazards in the workplace to ensure the safety of their employees.
Causes of Slip, Trip and Fall Accidents
There are many different factors that can contribute to maritime slip, trip, and fall hazards. Some of the most common causes of accidents that lead to injuries include:
- Wet or Slippery Surfaces: This is a major hazard on ships and in shipyards, where surfaces are often wet from rain or seawater.
- Loose Equipment or Cargo: This can create tripping hazards, especially in areas where workers are walking or moving around.
- Uneven Surfaces: This can be a problem on ships, where the deck can be uneven due to the movement of the waves.
- Poor Lighting: This can make it difficult to see hazards, such as wet surfaces, obstacles, broken flooring, or loose equipment.
- Fatigue: Maritime workers are often working long hours in difficult conditions, which can lead to fatigue. Fatigue can impair judgment and reaction time, making it more likely that a worker will trip and fall.
Common Injuries in Trip and Fall Accidents
Slips, trips, and falls can cause a variety of injuries. The extent of injuries often varies depending on the significance of the fall and the part of the body that is injured. Some of the most common injuries from falls include:
- Bruises and Contusions: Bruises and contusions are caused by the impact of the fall and can occur anywhere on the body.
- Sprains and Strains: Sprains and strains are injuries to the ligaments and tendons that support the joints. They can occur in the ankle, knee, shoulder, or other joints.
- Fractures: Fractures are breaks in the bones. They can occur in any bone in the body, but are most common in the arms, legs, and ribs.
- Head Injuries: Head injuries can range from mild concussions to severe traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). TBIs are serious injuries and can cause a variety of problems, including memory loss, personality changes, and paralysis.
- Spinal Cord Injuries: Injuries to the spine occur when the spinal cord is struck or twisted, discs dislocate, or the tissue around the spine is inflamed. Spinal cord injuries can cause paralysis, loss of sensation, and other problems.
- Death: In rare cases, falls can be fatal. While falls are most often fatal in older adults, workers in the maritime industry are more susceptible to severe falls and related injuries than workers in most other occupations.
If you are involved in a trip and fall, it is important to seek medical attention immediately, even if you do not think you are injured. Some injuries, such as concussions, may not be immediately apparent. It is also important to report the fall to your employer or property owner. This will help to ensure that the hazard that caused the fall is corrected and that other people are not injured.
Examples of Slip, Trip, and Fall Accidents
To help readers better understand the nature of slip, trip, and fall accidents, here are a few examples of such accidents in the maritime industry:
- In 2009, a passenger on a Carnival Cruise Ship was injured after a fall on the pool deck. An investigation determined that a slippery resin had been used on the deck, making it unsafe. Several other reports of falls were made prior to 2009, but Carnival did not remediate the situation.
- A worker on a barge slipped and fell on a surface that was covered in petroleum products. He tripped and got his foot stuck between a hose and rail, causing him to fall. During the fall, he struck his knee on a hard surface. The worker suffered serious injuries and was unable to return to work.
- A cook working on board a ship near the Gulf of Mexico slipped on an unsafe deck and hit his spine against the ship’s railing. He suffered severe injuries that led to him being paralyzed from the waist down. It was determined that the deck was not equipped with a required non-skid surface.
These accidents give just a brief glimpse into how easily slip, trip, and fall hazards can cause major injuries and losses.
How Can Slips, Trips, and Falls be Prevented?
As the above examples show, many slip, trip, and fall accidents are preventable. It is the responsibility of ship owners and employers to ensure a safe environment for workers or visitors. When they fail to do so, they jeopardize the health and safety of their employees and others.
To prevent maritime trip and fall hazards, it is important to identify and address the potential hazards in the workplace. Some of the most effective ways to do this in the maritime industry include:
- Keep surfaces clean and dry. This is especially important in areas where workers are walking or moving around.
- Secure equipment and cargo. This helps prevent equipment and cargo from becoming tripping hazards.
- Repair uneven surfaces. Routine maintenance can help to make the workplace safer for workers.
- Improve lighting. Adequate lighting will help workers to see potential hazards.
- Provide adequate rest breaks. This will help to prevent fatigue, which compromises a workers’ ability to perform.
By taking these steps, maritime employers can help to reduce the risk of trip and fall hazards in the workplace.
Legal Rights for Slip, Trip, and Fall Victims
Maritime workers who are injured while working may be eligible for compensation under various maritime laws. The Jones Act, the Longshore Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) and other maritime laws provide benefits and compensation for workers. Under these laws, maritime workers may be eligible for compensation for:
- Medical Expenses
- Maintenance and Cure
- Loss of Income
- Rehabilitation and/or Therapy
- Pain and Suffering
- Mental or Emotional Anguish (depression, anxiety, or PTSD)
- Punitive Damages
The best way to find out more about your rights and the laws that may allow compensation is to speak with a skilled maritime injury lawyer. Maritime law can be complex, but with the right lawyer on your side, you can get the compensation and benefits that you need to recover and move forward.
If you are suffering from a maritime injury and want to learn more about your rights and options, call Kherkher Garcia today at 713-333-1030 for a free consultation.