Accidents in Shipyards
There’s no denying that building and repairing ships is a dangerous occupation. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), part of the United States Department of Labor, reports that the following types of injuries are most common:
- Chemical exposure, including asbestos, fuel, paint, solvents, and welding fumes
- Physical stress, such as noise, heat, and lifting heavy weights
- Safety hazards, including working with heavy equipment, falls, fires, and working in confined spaces
Because of its claim that shipyard work is at least twice as dangerous as general industry and construction, OSHA has targeted the industry for improvement. Its Strategic Plan aims to prevent fatalities as well as work-related injuries and illnesses in the areas of ship building, repair, ship breaking, and barge cleaning. Unfortunately, many shipyard employers continue to disregard OSHA standards and put employees at risk.
Examination of Two Recent Fatalities in the Shipyard Industry
In addition to creating and enforcing safety standards for American workers, OSHA analyzes reports of fatalities and serious injuries. Below are two examples of just how dangerous this line of work can be:
Crane Crushes Rigger’s Assistant to Death
Two employees were using a truck-mounted crane to unload several steel beams sitting in a trailer. The crane’s outriggers were set and fully extended. The main rigger and the assistant assigned to him each controlled their loads with taglines. At the same time, the operator of the crane swung his load to the right. He then made a 180-degree turn and started lowering the beams towards the ground.
After unloading, the crane operator prepared to stow the crane. The supervising foreman left the area, but the rigger’s helper remained and stood up against the outrigger. When the crane’s operator went to swing the crane into a stowed position, the rigger’s assistant became crushed between the cab of the crane and the outrigger.
OSHA blamed the fatality on the crane’s swing radius not having an adequate barricade to prevent employees from accidentally ending up in a danger zone. Although the crane operator failed to keep eye contact with the rigger and his assistant, OSHA determined that something as simple as installing an audible sound could have saved the life of the rigger’s assistant.
Improper Ventilation Leads to Fire in Small Space
In this fatal accident, employees were using solvents to clean a confined space on a ship. They received instruction from the foreman to ventilate the space and use an air hose to dilute any vapors. A worker on the first shift ventilated the space with an oxygen hose instead for three hours. Later, a second shift worker entered the space smoking a cigarette. After tossing the cigarette butt to the deck and stepping on it to extinguish it, his pant leg caught on fire. The fire accelerated rapidly due to the oxygen-enriched atmosphere and the employee died due to his burns.
Although the employee was careless about smoking, no signs were present warning not to smoke in the area. Additionally, OSHA determined the confined space had not been tested and inspected for flammability and air quality by a trained employee prior to a supervisor assigning cleaning duty to these employees.
Shipyard Employers Often Try to Shift Blame
As the above examples show, shipyard employees sometimes contribute to their own serious or fatal injuries. However, this does not absolve employers from following proper procedures with implementing and enforcing health and safety standards. When these cases make it to court, it’s common practice for shipyard employers to try to place all blame on the worker.
If a serious or fatal shipyard accident has impacted your life and your employer refuses to accept responsibility, contact Gardner Law Firm, for a free and immediate case evaluation. Our experienced shipyard accident lawyers can help protect your rights and help you recover the damages you deserve. Call us today at (228) 436-6555.