Common Injuries for Maritime Workers
Maritime workers face all the on-the-job hazards that land-based workers face, while also dealing with the unique risks that come with working in a marine environment. A single mistake can result in an accident that could change your life forever. This includes accidents caused by:
- Slips and falls
- Fires and explosions
- Equipment mishaps caused by improper maintenance or use
- Falling overboard/lost at sea
- Getting hit by falling objects
- Exposure to toxic materials
- Working in unsafe enclosed spaces
- Overexertion or exhaustion
- Lack of proper safety equipment or training
In this blog, we’re going to take a look at some of the most common maritime worker injuries and how they impact the lives of maritime workers and their families.
Common Maritime Worker Injuries
Any one of these accidents can cause severe, even fatal injuries. Some of the most common injuries suffered by maritime workers include:
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)
Traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, are head injuries caused by an external force that result in altered or impaired brain function. TBIs are among the most serious maritime worker injuries, resulting in mental and physical impairments and even coma or death. A maritime worker who suffers a severe TBI may never be able to return to work again.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries can be just as serious as TBIs. Spinal cord injuries are caused by contusion/bruising to the spinal cord, damaging pressure on the spinal cord, stretching/deformation of the spinal cord, partial or complete severance of the spinal cord, or embedded foreign objects, such as bone fragments.
There are two types of spinal cord injuries: incomplete and complete. Incomplete spinal cord injuries are injuries that only partially impede spinal cord function. Complete spinal cord injuries are injuries that cause permanent damage to the affected area of the spinal cord.
Spinal cord injuries impede the transmission of information between the brain and the rest of the body, affecting motor and sensory functions. The most severe spinal cord injuries can result in numbness, tingling, extreme pain, limited mobility, and even paralysis.
Head, Neck, and Back Injuries
In addition to TBIs and spinal cord injuries, maritime accidents can cause a host of head, neck, and back injuries, including:
- Herniated discs
- Muscle and tendon damage
- Eye injuries
- Hearing impairments
- Nerve damage
Fires, explosions, faulty electrical wiring, improperly maintained or operated electrical equipment, exposure to hot fluids, and overexposure to the sun are a few of the causes of maritime burn injuries.
Burn injuries can result in extreme pain, disability, permanent disfigurement, and death. Depending on the severity, a maritime worker who has suffered burn injuries may have to undergo surgery (such as skin grafts), physical therapy and rehabilitation, and long-term assisted care.
Strong and sturdy, bones can become fractured or broken if enough force is applied. Maritime slip and fall accidents often result in broken bones. There are many different types bone fractures, including:
Severe bone fractures can also result in internal bleeding and organ damage. The good news is, that with timely and proper treatment, most maritime workers can expect to fully recover from a bone fracture, although it may take several weeks or months to recover enough to return to work.
Amputations and Disfigurement
Amputation — losing a limb — is considered to be a catastrophic injury. Catastrophic injuries are those that result in significant and permanent changes to a maritime worker’s life. A maritime worker who has lost an arm or a leg will likely never be able to return to their former job. In addition to the loss of employment, the injured maritime worker may also require physical therapy, a prosthesis (artificial limb), long-term care, as well wheelchairs, and other medical devices.
Scarring is another type of disfigurement. Serious burns and lacerations can result in permanent scarring.
While not all amputations and other disfiguring injuries are life-threatening, they are almost always life-changing and can have a big impact on the worker’s mental health and the ways they interact with other people. Maritime workers with severely disfiguring injuries often require mental health treatment in addition to physical treatment.
Maritime workers usually become exposed to toxic chemicals through inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact. Depending on the type of chemical and the level of exposure, maritime chemical exposure injuries can result in:
- Rashes and other skin problems
- Respiratory damage
- Eye irritation
- Mesothelioma and other types of cancer
- Brain damage
- Organ damage
- Nerve damage
- Infertility and birth defects
These injuries can be quite severe, and even fatal. A maritime worker who has been exposed to chemicals may become permanently disabled and require long-term medical care.
Repetitive Motion Injuries
Repetitive use injuries, also known as repetitive motion disorders (RMDs), are conditions that arise due to constant exertion and repetitive motion during work. They are a common type of injury in the maritime industry, where many jobs entail long periods of physical labor. After a while, this continuous and repetitive work can cause damage to the muscles, nerves, and tendons, resulting in pain and inflammation. Most RMDs can be treated through rest and over-the-counter pain medication to relieve the swelling. For more serious repetitive motion injuries, surgery may be required to treat the muscle, nerve, and tendon damage.
How Common Are Maritime Worker Injuries?
Here are some statistics pertaining to maritime worker injuries:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), workers in marine terminals and port operations experience higher rates of fatality, injury, and illness than other workers in the U.S. From 2011–2017 fatal injuries occurred at an annual rate five times that of the U.S. workforce overall.
Also from the CDC: Workers in the U.S. water transportation industry (this includes not only the Gulf Coast, but deep sea and inland waters as well) experience high rates of injury and illness, with a high proportion of upper extremity, lower extremities, and back injuries resulting in disability. They also show a high rate of fatalities due to cardiovascular conditions, work accidents, drownings, suicides, and workplace violence. From 2011–2017, there were 11,000 nonfatal occupational injuries and 87 fatal injuries among marine transportation workers, nearly six times the rate of all U.S. workers.
Why Are Maritime Injuries So Common?
Sadly, most maritime accident injuries are preventable. While maritime accidents can result from environmental factors such as high winds, high waves, extreme temperatures, and fog, the most common cause of maritime injuries is human error. Many of history’s most notable maritime disasters — from the sinking of the Titanic to the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion — resulted from the negligent act of a maritime employer or employee.
LKSA Is Dedicated To Helping Injured Maritime Workers
If you’re a maritime worker who has become injured in an on-the-job accident that resulted from the negligent actions of a co-worker, supervisor, or employer, the Jones Act and general maritime law give you the right to seek compensation for the damages caused by your accident injuries.
New Orleans maritime injury attorneys at Lewis, Kullman, Sterbcow & Abramson, LLC. We are considered to be one of the Gulf Coast’s top maritime law firms. Our attorneys have had a role in many, if not most, of the important maritime law cases in the last 40 years — including those that defined the requirements for a person and a vessel to be governed by the Jones Act.
Don’t wait to seek legal representation. You only have a limited time in which to act. Contact LKSA through our website or call us at (504) 588-1500 to schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced maritime injury accident attorney.