Four Parties that Cause Offshore Accidents
Working in the maritime industry has never been completely safe. For hundreds of years, men and women have braved the ocean to bring back the bounty and trade that it offers. Today, the offshore industry has evolved beyond what the earliest sailors could have ever imagined. Oil rigs dig deep into the seafloor, ships weather harsh waters, and vessels carry more cargo than ever before.
Along with the industry’s technological advancements, safety has improved significantly for offshore workers. Today, offshore safety has become so attainable that it’s reasonable for workers to expect that their well-being is protected from the start of their shift to the moment they’re back on land, not to mention while in transit to offshore platforms or sleeping in their quarters on a rig. Today, we know that offshore injuries are not “just part of the job.” They are completely preventable.
Maritime laws help ensure that offshore workers are protected from the type of conduct that leads to accidents and injuries. The Jones Act, for example, holds at-fault parties accountable when seamen suffer harm in accidents caused by negligence or unseaworthy vessels. The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) provides legal recourse for families who have lost loved ones as a result of negligence or wrongful acts on international waters.
Laws like these are necessary to ensure accountability in the offshore industry and provide an incentive for companies to provide safe environments for their workers. Even so, offshore accidents occur. When they do, who is responsible? Let’s dive in.
All offshore employers must protect the safety of their workers. This means making sure their employees have the right equipment, safety training, and more. Employers are also responsible for making sure that workers have a safe environment in which to carry out the duties of their jobs. Regardless of the inherent dangers associated with offshore activities, employers' legal and moral duties toward their crews remain uncompromised.
When employers put production and profits before crew safety, the results can be catastrophic.
Examples of employer negligence include:
- Poorly maintained vessels
- Inadequately maintained equipment
- A lack of training for employees
- Neglecting safety equipment
- Not hiring enough people for a job
- Overworking individual employees
- Overlooking or even encouraging lax safety standards
Employers carry the lion’s share of the responsibility for offshore incidents, and rightfully so.
2. Platform Owners & Operators
While the physical infrastructure of an offshore platform is under the ownership of specific entities, both owners and operators share responsibilities when it comes to the safety and protection of the crew working on these platforms. Owners may have invested in the equipment and structure, but operators, overseeing the daily functions, play a crucial role in maintaining safety standards. Failures or oversights in infrastructure maintenance, equipment checks, or adherence to safety regulations on the part of both owners and operators can lead to severe accidents.
When something goes wrong during offshore work, it might be the fault of a manufacturer. While employers are responsible for maintaining vessels and equipment, proper maintenance practices aren’t necessarily enough to prevent manufacturing defects and inadequacies. When a manufacturer makes an unsafe part that harms other people, they could be held liable for offshore accidents.
Examples of manufacturer liability include:
- Manufacturing defects that cause equipment or tools to fail
- Design defects that make equipment inherently dangerous
- Lack of proper safety guards or kill switches
4. Third Parties
The offshore industry relies on collaboration to thrive. Dredges clear channels for large ships, tugboats guide large barges, helicopters transport workers to and from platforms, and so much more. Offshore workers are frequently impacted by the actions (and negligence) of other companies and contractors as they do their jobs. If a third-party company plays a role in causing an accident, an injured worker may be able to seek compensation from them.
Determining Fault & Seeking Justice
Offshore incidents are rarely straightforward. The vast interplay of human actions, machinery functions, and environmental conditions makes investigating these accidents exceedingly complex. What might initially appear as an obvious fault can, upon deeper examination, unravel into a web of intertwined responsibilities and oversights by multiple parties.
To make things even more complicated, the offshore sector is a sprawling network of contractors, operators, manufacturers, and service providers. An accident that occurs might involve the direct actions or omissions of one entity, the indirect negligence of another, and perhaps even systemic issues that have been overlooked by several stakeholders. Identifying each party's role and responsibility is not just beneficial, but vital for ensuring you receive the compensation you're entitled to.
Justice isn't merely about identifying the obvious culprits. It's about delving deep, asking the tough questions, and ensuring that every potential fault line is examined. At Arnold & Itkin, our team is unwavering in our commitment to this thoroughness. Armed with resources, experience, and a relentless drive for the truth, we dedicate ourselves to ensuring every responsible party is identified and held accountable.
If you’ve suffered from an accident while working offshore, Arnold & Itkin is ready to help you at (888) 346-5024. Call us now for a free consultation with our offshore injury lawyers.