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Louisiana Maritime Law Blog

The Jones Act protects workers hurt at sea

An injured seaman who'd accused his former employer, Kirby Offshore Marine, LLC, of unseaworthiness and negligence finally settled his case last month. On May 10, he was awarded $171,809 by a U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana judge.

In the lawsuit filing, the plaintiff outlined how on Jan. 6, 2017, his supervisor had ordered him to replace the marine vessel Sea Hawk's damaged stern line. When he was asked to do it, the winds were blowing an unsafe 20 miles per hour.

The Fourth of July is a dangerous time for maritime workers

Independence Day is often one of the most anticipated holidays of the year, but it is also one of the most dangerous. Emergency responders around the nation are expecting plenty of reports of drunk driving, backyard barbecue fires and fireworks disasters.

Unfortunately, it’s not much safer out on the water. Even though many maritime workers often take the Fourth of July off, they can be in serious danger for the remainder of the week since thousands of residents take more than just the fourth off.

What is the Doctrine of Maintenance and Cure?

If you work as an able-bodied (AB) seaman or have another position on a seafaring vessel, at some point while carrying out your duties, you might get injured. What happens next?

A person who gets injured on the water has additional rights that extend beyond workers' compensation benefits. All workers on land or sea have a right to be paid for:

  • medical expenses
  • lost wages
  • permanent partial disability compensation

Storms often strike unpredictably at sea

Getting caught in a storm is incredibly dangerous, even for those who work at sea and consider themselves prepared for the worst. You can never quite know just how bad things are going to get or how intense the wind, rain and lightning will really be. All it takes is a bit of bad luck for a storm to turn into a disaster.

One of the biggest issues with storms is that, while weather-predicting technology has gotten better over the years, it is still not perfect. Many people do not know when a storm is going to strike. For that matter, storms often build up quickly, so they can strike without warning.

Maritime workers are at a significant risk for injury and death

Maritime industries can be found in virtually every state in the country according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, an estimated 400,000 individuals work in this sector in Louisiana and throughout the United States. Many work in commercial diving, fishing, shipyards, in marine transportation, at terminals or in processing seafood. Many of these professions carry with them a significant injury risk.

Data published by the CDC shows that maritime workers are 4.7 times more likely to get injured than those employed in any other profession in the United States.

What risks do underwater welders face?

Underwater welders earn top salaries due in large part to the enormous risks they face carrying out their tasks. Whether they work from oil rigs, ships or on pipelines, their work can take them out to sea for weeks or even months at a time.

In addition to being far away from friends and family for long stretches, they face dangers that most people in other professions will never encounter. They include:

  • Drowning: It should come as no surprise that any work that is done underwater carries great risk. All it takes is a breach in the diver's mask or hose or a faulty oxygen tank to cause the death of the diver.
  • Threat of explosions: Oxygen and hydrogen combine to a volatile mix of gases that can ignite and cause deadly explosions. Wet welders must be aware of the little "pops" they hear which mean that the bubbles of oxygen and hydrogen are building up.
  • Electrocution. While underwater welding equipment undergoes modifications to work beneath the water's surface, if the insulation has deteriorated, the waterproofing may be insufficient to protect the welder. Fresh water can destabilize the arc even more than saltwater can and presents an even higher risk of electrocution.
  • Decompression sickness. The condition is often referred to as "the bends" and is caused by divers ascending to the surface too quickly. As they swim upward, bubbles of nitrogen in their blood can cause complications and even death.

Drunk passengers present a large threat to cruise workers

The summer is almost here, and it’s arguably one of the busiest times for cruise ship workers. Plenty of families are starting to book their weeks for the next few months to enjoy some relaxing time off with their families from work.

Unfortunately, some passengers take their vacation hours too far. Many incidents on cruise ships often stem from passengers having too much alcohol. These nights of heavy drinking typically result in brutal brawls or dangerous stunts that sometimes the cruise line takes heat for. Drunk passengers can also put a cruise ship’s life in danger, so it is important to be aware of recurring trends and ways to respond to these emergency situations.

What's so dangerous about longshore work?

When people hear about how much longshore workers get paid, they often want to know how to get their hands on such a job. They quickly realize that landing a longshore job isn't just competitive though. It doesn't take long after they start working that they realize that it's dangerous too.

It's not until longshore workers start their jobs that they find out how long their shifts are and how strenuous the work is. Their pay isn't all that high until later on in their careers either.

Don't let your rights under the Jones Act slip by

If you've been working on a fishing trawler or some other type of commercial fishing vessel at sea, you don't have to be told that your work is dangerous. According to recent reports, the only job in the United States more dangerous than working as a fisherman is logging.

If you are injured while you're working on a fishing boat, you may be entitled to compensation under the Jones Act -- also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 -- but only if you take decisive action to protect your legal rights.

7 hazards of working in the maritime industry

The maritime industry is fairly expansive, encompassing far more than just people who work on ships. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, it also includes:

  • The construction of these vessels
  • Scrapping of ships
  • Repair jobs on vessels of all sizes and uses
  • The movement of cargo
  • The movement of materials

Involved in that process are dock hands, shipyard workers and many others. All of these people face some serious injury risks that they need to be aware of. Seven hazards that OSHA specifically notes are:

  1. Fires, both on ships and in shipyards
  2. Injuries in enclosed and confined spaces (like carbon monoxide poisoning)
  3. Exposure to hazardous chemicals
  4. Danger from heavy equipment
  5. Danger from machinery used to work on ships, move loads and much more
  6. Slip and fall hazards
  7. Falls, both from heights and simply falls on the same level

Discuss your rights during a free consultation. There’s no fee unless we win.

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