Engine Room Accidents

Inside ship engine room

Let Our Maritime Attorneys Help After an Engine Room Accident

If you are a crew member working on a ship or vessel you know that the engine room can be a dangerous place. Engine rooms on ships contain high temperatures, highly pressurized equipment and machinery can create a treacherous working environment. All types of injuries can occur in a ship’s engine room when proper precautions and safety measures are not taken. These injuries can be very serious, if not deadly. Some of the most common conditions leading to engine room accidents include:

  • Leaks and spills on the engine room floor
  • Poorly maintained equipment and machinery
  • Poor lighting
  • Leaks and releases hydraulic fluid and oils from engine systems
  • Engine explosions and fires
  • Poorly maintained Electrical equipment
  • Toxic exposures to benzene and other chemicals
  • Asbestos dust exposure from insulation and pipe coverings

Injured Workers Have Important Legal Rights

When an accident occurs in an engine room, injured workers have important legal rights that your engine room accident lawyer will protect. The Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 688, is a federal statute enacted by Congress to help protect seamen who are injured or become ill in the scope and course of their maritime employment. This Act gives injured seamen the right to file a negligence lawsuit against their employers to recover damages for their injuries.

In order to prevail in a Jones Act negligence case, the injured seaman need only prove that the employer’s negligence played some role in causing his or her injuries. This is a very low burden of proof in comparison to ordinary negligence claims. In an ordinary negligence claim the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s negligence was a primary cause of his or her injuries. In a Jones Act case, your employer can be held legally liable even if your employer’s negligence only played a very small part in your injuries.

It is also important to remember that if you are a seaman who is injured in an engine room accident, you are entitled to collect maintenance and cure benefits from your employer regardless of who may be at fault for your injuries. Similar to state worker’s compensation benefits, Jones Act seamen have an absolute right to collect maintenance and cure benefits when they are injured on the job. In cases of exposure to asbestos products on ships and vessels that years later cause the workers and seamen to be diagnosed with asbestos lung cancer or mesothelioma, those workers have the right to file a third party case or product liability against the asbestos product manufacturer and the ship owner for their injuries and other damages.

Crew members who suffer from burns and other engine room-related injuries may also have the right to file legal claims against other responsible parties, including the owner of the ship or vessel. Under General Maritime Laws, ship owners have an absolute duty to provide seamen with a “seaworthy” ship – a ship that is suitable and fit for its intended use. When the owner of the ship fails to meet this duty and a seaman is injured, the owner can be held liable for damages.

10 Common Engine Room Accidents

Engine room accidents can occur under a broad range of circumstances, and they can involve a broad range of issues. The following are 10 common engine room accidents for which injured workers can seek financial compensation:

1. Air Compressor Explosion

Engine rooms on large vessels are filled with high-pressure air lines that perform a variety of different functions. While air compressors have a discharge valve that is specifically designed to prevent explosions, explosions still can (and do) happen when workers close these valves.

2. Boiler Explosion

Boilers can be extremely dangerous; and, while there have been improvements in boiler safety in recent years, many older vessels still have older boilers. Misfires, dripping fuel, overheating, excessive pressure build-up, and failure to purge are all common issues with older boilers that can lead to explosions.

3. Engine Crankcase Explosion

Engine crankcase explosions occur when oil particles come into contact with hotspots within the crankcase. When air enters the crankcase during normal engine operation, the combustion that would normally just cause the engine to run instead causes the oil particles in the crankcase to explode.

4. Turbocharger Explosion

Turbochargers on ship engines typically explode when oil and carbon deposits built up in the exhaust side of the turbocharger combust due to the extreme heat generated by the engine. These explosions can cause engine failures and send debris flying throughout the engine room.

5. High-Pressure Fuel Line Burst

High-pressure lines carry fuel throughout the engine room, from storage tanks to engines, generators, and other equipment. While safety rules require high-pressure fuel lines to be jacketed in order to prevent the risk of injuries in the event of a burst, many companies don’t follow the rules. Even when they do, these jackets often aren’t enough to protect workers in the vicinity.

6. High-Pressure Steam Line Burst

High-pressure steam lines present similar risks to high-pressure fuel lines. When these lines burst, workers can suffer severe burns, and in many cases, these burns will be life-threatening.

7. Over-Speeding the Ship’s Generator

Ship generators have a trip mechanism that is supposed to prevent them from over-speeding. If this trip mechanism fails, this can allow a generator to over-speed, and this can cause the crankshaft, connecting rods, and other internal components of the generator to come loose and expel from the generator.

8. Electrical Malfunctions

Electrical malfunctions in ship engine rooms are common, and they can lead to accidents ranging from equipment failures to electric shock. Failure to follow safety protocols (including inspection and lockout/tagout protocols) is a leading cause of these accidents.

9. Hydraulic System Malfunctions

Vessels rely on hydraulic systems to operate various different types of machinery. Broken seals, inadequate maintenance, defective design and various other issues can lead to dangerous, and potentially deadly, hydraulic system malfunctions.

10. Accidental CO2 Release

Carbon dioxide (CO2) systems in engine rooms are designed to release CO2 in the event of a fire. If a CO2 system fails, resulting in the release of CO2 while workers are present, this can have fatal consequences. 

Discuss Your Case with an Engine Room Accident Attorney

At the Willis Law Firm, we represent crew members and other maritime workers who have been injured in all types of maritime accidents. We understand that working on a ship or vessel is a difficult and hazardous job. When a maritime worker is injured it is important to seek advice from an experienced injury attorney. Our engine room accident law firm has over thirty years of experience helping injured seamen and crew members recover the compensation they are legally entitled to receive. Contact us today at 1-800-468-4878 to schedule your free, confidential consultation.

Willis Law Firm, Offshore & Maritime Lawyer
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5005 Riverway Drive
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Houston, Texas 77056

713-654-4040
1-800-468-4878
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Houston, Texas 77029

713-930-1717
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