Attorneys for the maritime worker
since 1970

The perils of falling overboard

California residents who work on towing vessels may be encouraged by the declining fatality rate of crew members. It is still important for them to be aware of the hazards of falling overboard, however, and to understand what they should do if this happens.

Falling overboard while working on a ship is a serious event. According to, a crew member is more likely to die if he or she falls overboard, and these incidents make up 50 percent of the fatalities that occur on towing vessels. This statistic has remained consistent even as deaths aboard towing vessels have gone down. In 2015, three of the six fatalities that occurred involved a crew member who had fallen overboard.

It is important for crew members to act as soon as they realize someone has fallen overboard. says that the actions crew members take immediately after someone falls overboard can make it more likely that this person will survive. People should typically make sure the steering wheel is set to hand steering so they can steer the front of the vessel in the direction of the overboard crew member. This can help ensure that this person does not come near the stern. Additionally, while people should usually yell “Man overboard,” they should make sure they mention whether a crew member is on the port or starboard side.

Immediate action is important because rough water and inclement weather can be hazardous. A crew member might incur hypothermia if he or she is in cold water and this condition can cause someone to lose consciousness. Additionally, rough water might cause someone to drown, even if he or she knows how to swim.