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Marine Cargo Handling Accidents

Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act

Marine cargo handling workers have one of the highest rates of absences from work caused by serious workplace injuries and illnesses in the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for every 100 workers, marine cargo workers recorded 4 cases of serious injury or illness that required missed work days in 2009.

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.

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If you have been injured while handling marine cargo, you need to talk to an experienced maritime injury lawyer about your accident. You and your family may be entitled to collect for medical bills, lost wages, living expenses, and other expenses. For a free consultation, contact us as soon as possible.

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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. If drivers, top / side handlers, and on-foot workers all make an effort to be aware of their surroundings it could eliminate the possibility of serious accidents.

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 using that all horns, back-up 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 on the risk 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 in 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.

Top / Side Handler Operator Safety

The individuals who operate top / side handlers also need to be extremely careful when they are working with this machine. The drivers should always back up slowly and smoothly. They should never cut across, between, or through bays. It is also important that top / side handlers guide the lift so that the container that is being handled does not strike another container in the stack.

First-Aid Kits

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 the 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 need 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 is using safety harnesses and lifelines. In addition, all marine cargo ships must have safety harnesses or lifelines.

Common Sources of Accidents & Injuries Include the Following:

  • Gangway Falls

    Workers in marine cargo handling frequently rely on gangways to board / depart from vessels. Unfortunately, they are not alway safe, and falls from gangways can cause head, brain, neck, and spine injuries.

    Per OSHA, gangways must meet the following requirements:

    - Gangway must be a minimum of 20 inches wide
    - Handrails must be 33 inches high
    - Chain, wire, and rope railings must be tightly strung
    - A net must be set under the gangway to prevent workers from falling into the water or a lower level
    - Gangways must be kept clear
    - Any obstructions that must be on the gangway need to be properly marked
    - When there is a one-foot gap between the gangway and the edge of an apron, a bridge must be installed
    - Each side of the gangway must be protected with handrails and midrails

    If you or a loved one was injured in a gangway accident on a marine cargo ship, and these requirements were not followed on the vessel, then you have the right to seek compensation. Typically, OSHA will come inspect the scene of the accident. If they declare that the ship was not following requires safety standards for gangway procedures, then you can seek compensation on the grounds of employer or supervisor negligence.

  • 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.

  • On-the-Job Fatigue

    Marine workers often work long and irregular hours, leading to fatigue and sleepiness. Fatigue can affect a marine worker or equipment operator's performance and lead to workplace accidents and fatalities. Many marine cargo accidents actually occur near the end of shifts when workers are fatigued.

Contact Our Maritime Injury Attorneys for a Free Consultation

Arnold & Itkin LLPIf you have been injured while working at a dock, harbor or marine cargo terminal, you need to talk to an experienced maritime lawyer about your accident and legal rights. Regardless of whether you are a dock worker, a longshoreman or a harbor worker, you have certain rights and benefits when you are injured or fall ill in a maritime-related job. At Arnold & Itkin LLP, we understand the complexities and legalities of maritime law. Based in Houston, our aggressive marine cargo injury attorneys stand up for maritime workers who have been injured on the job anywhere on the Gulf Coast.

Contact a maritime attorney from our firm if you have been injured while handling marine cargo.

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