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Why Docks are Dangerous for Maritime Workers

Maritime Injuries Jul 1, 2021

Seaman and Other Maritime Workers Need to be Mindful of the Potential Hazards of Working on a Dock

Working on a dock can be dangerous. Docks present various risks, and workers can – and do – suffer various types of injuries. While dock owners and employers should take steps to mitigate these risks, many fail to do so, and these failures often have severe consequences.

So, why are docks dangerous? Here are seven examples of the risks many dock workers, boat mechanics, commercial divers, crewmembers, and other maritime employees face daily:

7 of the Biggest Risks of Working on a Dock

1. Slip-and-Fall Accidents

Docks are often slippery, and the lack of any guardrails or safety rails means that workers risk going into the water when they slip and fall. Slip-and-fall accidents can also cause injuries when workers land on docks (or collide with dock boxes or other objects). Depending on whether a worker falls on the dock or into the water, injury risks from slip-and-fall accidents can range from sprains, fractures and concussions to lung damage from near-drowning incidents.

2. Underwater Hazards

When workers fall into the water, underwater hazards can present risks for serious – and even fatal – injuries. The waters around docks are often littered with old pilings, lines, and objects dropped from the dock and docked boats. Colliding with these objects underwater can lead to severe cuts, soft tissue injuries, and broken bones (among other injuries). If a worker gets caught underwater or knocked unconscious, they can be at risk for drowning—especially if they do not have a life preserver and no other workers or boaters in the vicinity.

3. Inadequate Access to Safety Equipment

Speaking of life preservers, inadequate access to safety equipment is another all-too-common risk for workers on docks. Docks should be equipped with throwables, and employers should ensure that their employees have the equipment they need to stay safe on the job.

Along these same lines, inadequate training is a safety risk as well. If workers don’t know how to properly use safety equipment (such as inflatable life vests), or if they don’t know where to find safety equipment in an emergency, they might as well not have access to safety equipment at all.

4. Inexperienced and Unsafe Co-Workers

On docks, co-workers share responsibility for one another’s safety. All workers must know what they need to do not only to keep themselves safe but also to avoid endangering their coworkers. Lack of experience, carelessness, alcohol and drug impairment, and various other issues can all lead to accidents that are entirely preventable.

5. Inexperienced and Unsafe Boat Operators

Inexperienced and unsafe boat operators also present risks for workers on docks. When a boat operator approaches a dock too fast or at the wrong angle, this can suddenly put workers on the dock in a very dangerous situation. Accidents can also happen when workers try to help secure boats to cleats—for example, if a boat operator fails to keep the boat close to the dock or pulls forward or reverses unexpectedly.

6. Hazardous Weather and Water Conditions

Rain, wind and other hazardous weather conditions can present risks for slips and falls. So can dangerous water conditions. Swells, large wakes, choppy water and fast currents can all create situations that can quickly go from bad to worse.

7. Dock Lines, Equipment and Other Risks

Untidy dock lines, dock lines that are frayed and at risk of snapping, equipment left out on the dock, and other similar types of risks are frequent causes of on-the-job injuries for maritime employees. Poor dock maintenance is a common factor as well. On many docks, maritime employees can never know quite what to expect, and this often leads to serious injuries that could – and should – have been avoided.

What Should You Do if You Get Injured Working on a Dock?

If you have been injured working on a dock, what should you do? There are several laws that protect maritime workers, and there is a good chance that you are entitled to benefits for your injury. To learn about your rights and make sure you receive the benefits you deserve, you should promptly consult with a maritime injury lawyer.

Since most maritime injury lawyers represent their clients on a contingency fee basis, it shouldn’t cost anything out of pocket for you to get experienced legal representation. If your lawyer helps you collect benefits, your lawyer’s fees will be deducted from your award. Recovering from a dock accident can be a long, expensive and challenging process, and it is best to get started right away. 

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