Marine Terminal Accidents
Helping Those Injured in Accidents at Marine Terminals
Marine terminals and ports are hives of activity, where roughly 98,000 workers in the U.S., many engaged in longshoring, handle the influx of cargo from national and international voyages. Amid the constant hustle—with workers bustling along the docks, cranes towering overhead, and trucks navigating the bustle—the risk of accidents is high.
This is reflected in the statistics: from 2011 to 2017, marine terminal workers faced a fatal injury rate of 15.9 per 100,000 workers annually—5 times higher than the average across all U.S. industries.
The three primary causes of fatalities in longshoring and at marine terminals are:
- Vehicular accidents
- Falls and drowning accidents
- Material handling accidents
Longshoremen, harbor workers, and all people who work at marine terminals deserve a safe working environment. They may work around heavy machinery and perform manual labor, but the right training, safety equipment, and procedures can significantly minimize the hazards they face. At Arnold & Itkin, we believe in standing up for marine terminal workers’ rights and interests. If you have been injured in a traffic accident or any incident at a marine terminal, we are here to help.
Vehicular Accidents at Marine Terminals
One of the biggest dangers in marine terminals is vehicle accidents. The constant movement of heavy machinery, forklifts, container trucks, and other commercial vehicles, intermingling with the on-foot workforce, creates a complex web of activity that must be carefully coordinated to prevent collisions and injuries.
Many different factors can contribute to a traffic accident at a marine terminal:
- Driving obstacles
- Weather conditions
- Inadequate Lighting
- Inadequate traffic controls
- Unsafe equipment
- Condition of driving surfaces
- Reckless vehicle operation
- Shift changes
- Substance abuse
- Lack of communication
- Lack of training
- Driver distractions
These incidents not only threaten the safety of workers but can also cause substantial delays in operations and lead to severe logistical setbacks. Implementing strict traffic control measures, rigorous training for vehicle operators, and clear pedestrian pathways are essential strategies to minimize the risks of traffic-related incidents in marine terminals.
Preventing Traffic Accidents at Marine Terminals
OSHA created a list of suggestions to reduce the possibility of traffic accidents at marine terminals. The following measures could revolutionize the safety of marine terminals for workers:
With traffic controls in place, pedestrians are better protected, and drivers will operate at safe speeds. OSHA requires that all marine terminals have stop signs at the main entrances and exits of structures and at blind intersections. Also, vehicular routes and parking areas should be established, identified, and used when necessary. There should also be signs warning of pedestrian crossing areas to protect workers who are on foot.
Vehicle Selection & Maintenance
Supervisors should make sure that all vehicles near the terminal are safe for use. OSHA requires that employers only use vehicles with working horns, alarms, brakes, mirrors, alarms, and warning devices. Vehicles need to be maintained carefully, and all vehicles should not be modified unless the employer has written permission to do so.
All safety devices should not be removed, and employers must check all marine terminal vehicles every single day. Employers must also train employees to recognize and report any vehicle damage and deficiencies to a supervisor so that the vehicle can be taken care of. All vehicles should be checked to make sure that the speedometer, windshield wipers, steering, mirrors, seat belts, and other essential vehicle components are in working order.
OSHA recommends that employers allow private vehicle parking in designated areas, penalizing anyone who parks away from these designated posts. Employees should never park in traffic lanes, in spaces that could be in an operator's blind spot, or in the path of a crane. Chassis should never be parked in a place where the chassis tongue could protrude.
On both private and public roads, drivers need to be extremely careful. In marine terminals, the busy activity and constant movement call for even safer drivers. All intersections need to be kept clear, and drivers should never carry loads that are too high on a yard tractor. Also, workers need to remember to stay on designated lanes and avoid taking shortcuts. Drivers should be aware of all activity going on in the terminal and of pedestrians in the area.
Safe Operation of Vehicles
Many of the vehicles in marine terminals are not just cars. They are tractors, forklifts, or other large vehicles. To preserve safety, workers should be familiar with their vehicle and understand all operating procedures.
Repair Work & Welding
A lot of times workers will weld at the marine terminals. The sparks can distract drivers or impair their vision. Employers need to communicate with personnel about the location of welding operations so that employees won't enter the area unprotected or become blinded when approaching the bright welding activities.
Pedestrians must also do their part to promote safety out on the marine terminals. Anyone on foot should make sure that their movements are predictable and must avoid placing items on rolling or moving equipment. Pedestrians should also be aware of drivers’ blind spots and make sure not to walk or stand in these locations.
Other Marine Terminal Accidents
Marine terminal workers can suffer serious injuries in container terminal operations and in roll-on, roll-off or Ro-Ro terminal operations. Due to the dangerous work conditions and high rates of serious injuries that marine workers and dock workers suffer, a federal law, the LHWCA, gives land-based marine workers certain legal rights when they are injured. Longshoremen are protected when injured in areas used for loading, unloading, repairing, and building.
Top/Side Handler Accidents
Marine cargo industry workers are at risk of being hit by top/side handlers when they are working in marine terminals. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, it is important to be aware of the traffic patterns of moving vehicles in order to avoid collisions and injuries.
Drivers can avoid top/side handler injuries by using caution when they approach a gap in a stack or bay. The driver may not be aware that a top/side handler is in operation, and may back into the lane. When drivers aren't cautious, they may not notice the top/side handler until it is too late, causing a collision. It is also important that drivers yield the right of way to top/side handlers that are backing up and provide plenty of room for them to do so.
Drivers may even need to stop and wait until the top/side handler crosses the travel lane before proceeding. The OSHA has created speed and traffic regulations for cargo ships, and drivers need to serve these in order to minimize the possibility of a top/side handler injury. Drivers can also enhance safety by ensuring that all horns, backup alarms, flashing lights, mirrors, and seat belts are operational.
Anyone in a vehicle on a cargo ship also needs to look out for pedestrians in the area and keep voice contact or eye contact with them if possible. Spotters and clerks should be present to make sure that the drivers are not going to run over a pedestrian crossing in front of or behind the vehicle. It is important that drivers maintain a distance of at least 20 feet between vehicles in check-in, check-out loading/discharging lines, and roadability or at any time when employees might work behind other vehicles in line. Drivers also need to be prepared to stop at any moment because there may be top/side handlers or pedestrians in their lane.
Container Berth Areas
Container berth areas in marine terminals are particularly dangerous because of the high amount of motorized industrial vehicles. Traffic accidents may involve workers on foot being struck by motorized vehicles. Drivers and equipment operators who have not received adequate training in the safe operation and maintenance of powered industrial trucks, such as forklifts, can be a hazard to other marine and harbor workers. An equipment operator may try to transport an unbalanced load because the operator hasn't been trained to load cargo properly.
Marine employers that fail to provide workers with proper training to operate equipment safely may be legally responsible for an injury or fatality.
Safety Measures to Protect Workers at Marine Terminals
Marine cargo handling workers are exposed to many hazards on a regular basis. In order to reduce the dangers of these hazards, there are some things that OSHA suggests in the area of first aid. OSHA says that individuals must report all injuries, regardless of their severity, to a supervisor immediately in order to receive treatment.
All ships should have first-aid kits available at each marine terminal on the vessel, and those kits need to be constructed so that they are weather-proof. All first-aid kits should be stocked with necessary items like gauze and adhesive rape, bandages, resuscitation equipment, latex gloves, and a splint with elastic wraps.
In addition to this, all first-aid kits on the ship should have sterile items in individually sealed packages to prevent infection. The first-aid kits need to be certified by a professional and checked at regular intervals so that items can be replaced as necessary. OSHA requires that at least one person with a valid first-aid certificate be present in the terminal and provide first-aid in situations where it is needed. Also, all marine cargo ships need to have working telephones readily available in case of an emergency. All workers need to know the location of the first-aid kit.
Storage Basket Stretchers
Every marine cargo ship needs to have basket stretchers that are installed with provisions for worker safety. These storage basket stretchers must have permanent bridles that are able to lift up to 1,000 pounds and attach to hoisting gear. Each of the stretchers needs a blanket or suitable covering and at least four sets of patient restraints.
The stretchers must also need to have lifting bridles and foot plates so that they can make vertical lifts from container berths. OSHA maintains that all stretchers need to be kept in operable condition and protected from the elements. Stretchers in permanent locations need to be mounted in a way that will help to prevent damage. If the stretcher is hidden, there needs to be a sign noting that there is lifesaving equipment in the storage space.
Life Rings & Personal Flotation Devices
Life rings can be essential in situations where a person falls overboard. All life rings must be at waterside work areas and easily accessible. They must be at least 30 inches in diameter and have at least 90 feet of line attached to them. OSHA also says that all personal flotation devices on ships must be approved by the U.S. Coast Guard and worn by workers who are doing tasks where they could fall into the water. The only times that personal flotation devices are not required are when an employer has installed railings or nets or if the workers are using safety harnesses and lifelines.
Talk to a Marine Terminal Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured while working at a marine terminal, it's crucial to take immediate action to protect your rights and secure the compensation you deserve. The complexities of maritime law require the attention of a seasoned lawyer who is well-versed in the specific regulations and protections for workers in this field. This may include filing a claim under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act to pursuing further legal action if necessary.
Don't let the confusion of a post-accident situation hinder you from seeking justice. Our knowledgeable marine terminal accident lawyers can offer guidance on the best course of action, ensuring that all necessary documentation is in order and that all deadlines are met. We can also provide robust representation in negotiations or in court, fighting to obtain full compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages related to the injury.
Remember, you don't have to face the aftermath of an accident alone; Arnold & Itkin can be your ally in this challenging time, helping you focus on recovery while we handle the legal heavy lifting. Contact us today to learn how we can help.