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Oakland California Maritime Law Blog

Ergonomic injury risks for commercial fishermen

As a California resident who makes your living working on a commercial fishing vessel, you probably understand all too well just how dangerous your job is. While spending the day on unpredictable coastal waters presents numerous dangers, many of the injuries faced by commercial fisherman develop over time, much in the same way they do for professionals who spend long days working on computers or otherwise performing repetitive tasks. At the Law Offices of Lyle C. Cavin Jr. & Associates, we have seen just how common ergonomic injuries are among those who make their living at sea, and we have helped many people suffering from these and other work-related injuries pursue solutions that meet their needs.

Per the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the repetitive actions associated with fishing, hauling in catches and performing related tasks can place a serious strain on your neck, back, shoulders and other body parts. While maintaining proper workplace ergonomics can help mitigate your risk of suffering repetitive strain injuries, back stresses and similar problems, the nature of your job as a commercial fishing professional exposes you, nonetheless, to these types of injuries.

Are you at risk of falling on your ship?

Employees are frequently injured by falls at their workplaces in California and elsewhere. When it comes to falls on the job, people might consider those that occur at industries based on land, such as the construction industry, the nursing field and even office jobs. Less commonly considered, but certainly not less important, are falls that you can experience while working on a container ship.

The last week of September has been designated Fall Prevention Awareness Week by the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence. This organization and many others understand the importance of being aware of the fall risks in your industry and taking measures to reduce or eliminate hazards. There are many opportunities to slip, trip or fall on the ship you work on, including the following:

  • Falling from a ladder while you are securing cargo or performing ship maintenance and repairs
  • Tripping over an electrical cord or other equipment or debris left on deck or in a corridor
  • Slipping on deck when the surface is wet from rain or seawater
  • Losing your balance during rough seas
  • Falling from a ramp or dock

Sick of cruising? The most common illnesses on cruise ships

Few incidents can derail a well-planned vacation like getting sick. You might avoid the virus going around in your neighborhood before your embarkment day, only to get terribly ill from a bug that’s being spread among the passengers on your cruise ship. At the Law Offices of Lyle C. Cavin, Jr. & Associates, we understand that ship-borne illnesses are not only a pain for California vacationers – they can be dangerous for some with compromised immune systems. In some cases, the ship’s staff may be held accountable for their procedures for preventing or treating an outbreak on board.

The close quarters on cruise ships, in addition to food handling and water sources, could contribute to an outbreak. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diarrheal illnesses, respiratory diseases and those that can be prevented by a vaccine are the most common sicknesses to go around on cruise ships. Examples of these include food poisoning, norovirus, chickenpox or the common cold or flu. Contracting influenza on your vacation may be irritating at best, but can spell disaster if you get a bacterial infection from the disease or your immunity is compromised – such as being pregnant, elderly or having an immunodeficiency.

How do you properly secure cargo?

When you work on a container ship in California, one important aspect of your job is ensuring all of the cargo is properly secured. Improperly secured cargo can be a hazard to both the crewmembers and the ship, and it is necessary to understand the safety measures people need to use.

The movement of the sea can easily cause cargo to shift if it is not properly secured. There are many things crewmembers can do to ensure cargo is properly secured. According to Marine Insight, it is important for people to make sure they use the right practices when they need to use a sling to move and secure loads. Crewmembers should typically make sure the sling is connected to the lifting appliance so it does not slip. People also need to ensure the load is secure in the sling and will not move once it is in the air.

Will we see a shift to autonomous cargo ships?

Over the last few years, researchers have made a lot of progress with autonomous vehicles. They mainly focus on passenger cars, trying to eliminate accidents caused by human error, but the technology does not have to stay in that realm. Experts can also apply it to trains and 18-wheelers.

Some experts predict that this technology could make its way into the shipping industry. Companies are already working on autonomous cargo ships. Is that a realistic future for the industry? What risks does it carry? How could it transform maritime work?

Is a seaman’s release of claims enforceable?

When accepting a personal injury settlement, the injured party must sign a release absolving the negligent party from any future injuries arising from the accident. This is also the case in the maritime industry, in which seamen face a myriad of risks and often find themselves injured as a result. Pacific Maritime Magazine explains seaman’s release of claims and whether these acts are considered enforceable.

Right to Compensation

Boating while intoxicated is widely underestimated

At the Law Offices of Lyle C. Cavin, Jr. & Associates, we understand that working on a sea vessel can be stressful and dangerous. As such, we also know that a ship’s crew may blow off steam by having a few drinks. There is nothing wrong with safely imbibing, but as you know, people may drink and drive, as well as boat and drive. This can present serious safety issues for California mariners.

Boating under the influence is usually a charge that applies to recreational boaters, as FindLaw explains. In the summer months or in warmer climates, combining pleasure boating with alcohol is common with those who are escaping from their everyday lives. However, this doesn’t mean you are invulnerable to the dangers. Many boaters underestimate the potential impact of operating a vessel with alcohol in their systems, since ships aren’t restricted to narrow roads with traffic close by. Your crew members may also falsely assume that getting drunk on a ship is no big deal.

The most common accidents that happen on deck

You have worked on container ships for the better part of the last decade. It is a career that fits what you enjoy in life. You like the irregular hours, the physically demanding work and the unique lifestyle. You enjoy the job, and it pays the bills. You were always taught the value of hard work, and you have put that to good use. You're proud of what you've done.

At the same time, you understand that working on a ship is not the safest job. Whenever you tell people what you do for a living, they always ask about storms and the risk of a shipwreck. You understand the way the general public romanticizes these types of events, and you do what you can to explain how safe it is and the precautions you take.

What should you know about maritime injury claims?

As a variety of Californian jobs involve being out on the open water, it's to be expected that workers like you risk facing injury while on boats. The Law Offices of Lyle C. Cavin, Jr. & Associates, who handle maritime and personal injury law, are here to help you understand more about making maritime injury claims.

The first thing to understand is that many different types of shipboard injuries can be eligible for compensation. For example, lifting heavy cargo or dealing with hoisting or heavy lines can result in you suffering from muscular strain, back problems, or even dislocated joints if the loads are heavy enough. Improper training or equipment can add to this danger, making dealing with cargo on a ship very troublesome.

What are some ways cruise ship employees can get injured?

Previously, we discussed injuries that cruise ship passengers may suffer during their voyage. This does not mean that crew members are impervious to injuries. In fact, cruise line employees in California and elsewhere are vulnerable to the same mishaps that passengers are subjected to. As you may be aware, you and your fellow crew members may also be in accidents that are not as common among passengers, due to your line of work.

You may remember a shocking 2015 tragedy that occurred aboard a cruise ship off the Florida coast. CNN reported that an electrician had been working inside an elevator shaft during the voyage and was crushed when the elevator car he was standing on began moving. Traumatized passengers witnessed blood pouring down the outside of the elevator doors following the accident. The worker did not survive the incident.

Begin Your Recovery Today

  • Whether you are a maritime professional or were injured on a cruise ship, our attorneys can help. We have represented clients from every West Coast port city, including Oakland (where we’re based), San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Long Beach, San Pedro and San Diego. We also serve clients from the Gulf Coast.

  • To speak with one of our maritime lawyers, call the Law Offices of Lyle C. Cavin, Jr. & Associates in Oakland at 510-291-4743, 888-340-7991 or contact us online.

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