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Louisiana Maritime Law Blog

More offshore rigs may mean more potential for injury

What is the top concern for workers headed to an offshore oil rig? Profit for the dangerous journey is one of them, and future job opportunities is probably another. The No. 1 worry is probably about safety, because injuries can be costly and painful as well as preventing workers from keeping their income flowing.

The prospect of more offshore equipment near the Louisiana coast is raising more safety concerns. The entire Gulf of Mexico is preparing for an oil glut and the offshore oil export terminals that can share this wealth with ports around the world.

How are workers on the water protected from injury?

A life at sea is a difficult one, but many people take to it for the opportunities that the water affords. Even more laborers support marine commerce, fishing and other vital industries with work in shipyards, on docks or on stationary platforms offshore. There are enough hoops to jump through to keep a maritime work life safe without the difficulties of getting care after illness or injury.

How are workers on the water protected by law?

Admiralty claims cover sea area as well as sea injuries

Disputes in a specific community or parish on land are often complicated, but it is usually a simple process to figure out which courts can resolve them if no other method works. Things can become less sure, however, when disputes involve territory covered by water.

  • What is the type of law that deals with injuries or disputes on the water?

Laws regarding the use and ownership of maritime property and vessels is often referred to as admiralty law. Although the grandiose title may make people think of commanders of sailing ships on the high seas of yore, the term is a reminder of the past in which these officers were assigned to enforcing admiralty law.

  • How does admiralty law affect people injured on sea vessels?

Jones Act interpretation changes the definition of vessel crews

Life on the high seas is famously difficult. Ancient mariners had no guarantees even when it came to direction, and the creation of better ships and navigation has still not eliminated all risk on and under the water.

Maritime law is a complicated set of regulations that cover various areas. The piece of law with which Americans are more likely to be familiar is the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, better known as the Jones Act. The law contains several provisions including how United States flagged ships and their crews operate, as well as how crew members may be protected after injury.

Why do people work on oil rigs?

Working on an oil rig, or an offshore oil drilling platform, is a tough job. It's dangerous. It's physically demanding. It's remote. If you do get injured, you could be hundreds of miles from a hospital. Workers suffer serious injuries and even die on these rigs every year.

So, why do people do it? Why take those types of risks? Some of the perks include:

  • You tend to work for only two-fifths of the year. You get a lot of time off compared to a normal 9-5 job, which may just give you two weeks vacation out of 52 weeks every year.
  • You often have to work for 14 days in a row, but then you get the next three weeks (21 days) off. Those 14 days are intense, but having three weeks for every break allows for travel, vacations and time with family.
  • The accommodations on an oil rig are better than many people realize. Some have compared them to five-star hotels.
  • You do not have to pay for things like travel, laundry, utilities, rent or food while you're on the rig. The company covers these costs in addition to your salary.
  • Since you have no costs and you're so far from the mainland, you typically do not spend any of that money for two weeks at a time. This makes it easier to save, if you so desire.

Commercial fishers need to watch out for dredging sites

The early summer months are the most popular times for dredging sites to pop up near rivers and other bodies of water. Most of the activity occurs in the early months of the summer as many states are trying to balance out their waters from all the spring flooding they received.

Unfortunately, the flooding in 2019 has been brutal. Thanks to the record-breaking floods earlier this year from various storms, many sites began around the middle of spring and have had to alter their strategies to deal with the excessive waters. As a result, many commercial fishers in Louisiana have had to deal with dredging sites in their work routes this year. Those unaware of the potential safety hazards within these areas are putting their lives on the line.

A cruise ship worker wins $10.3 million for spine injuries

A Celebrity Cruises worker was awarded $10.3 million for spinal injuries he suffered on the job this week in Miami.

According to the court filings in this case, the Croatian man had been working in the pantry of the cruise ship Eclipse back in July 2015. The water vessel then unexpectedly came into some rough waters. This caused the bread trolly that he'd been using to roll, tip over and make contact with his back.

Compensation exists for all types of maritime worker injuries

If you work in a shipyard or a harbor or you're a longshore worker, then you were likely taught about the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Act (LHWCA) when you were first trained for your job. They might not have gone into great detail about what it is and who's eligible for protection under it though.

The LHWCA protects anyone who works in traditional maritime positions including as a ship-repairer, builder or breaker. It also covers harbor construction and longshore workers if they get hurt on the job. It protects individuals who generally don't work in these roles, yet they were hurt while performing job-related tasks while in navigable waters as well.

Delta P is a frequent hazard for commercial divers

According to OSHA, there is an average of six to thirteen commercial diving fatalities every year. That may not seem like much, but there are only around 10,000 employees in this profession, so the ratio is much higher than it is for other industries.

One of the most common causes for diver deaths comes in the form of differential pressure, better known as Delta P. These can occur in multiple areas underwater, but most end up near a water control structure that creates a vacuum due to a hole or crack in the structure. The high pressure can suck in the diver and trap them until they drown.

2 Shell oil rig workers are killed off the Louisiana coast

Two oil rig workers were killed and another was injured on an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana on June 30. The fatal incident happened on the Shell Auger Leg Platform, which can be found 214 miles off the coast of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico, at around 9 a.m.

A press release issued by Shell Oil Company outlines how the incident occurred that fateful morning while workers were performing mandatory and routine testing of their lifeboat capabilities. The deceased oil rig workers were apparently attempting to launch and retrieve the lifeboats while working aboard the Shell Auger Tension Leg Platform (TLP) when they were killed.

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