The U.S. Coast Guard and OSHA set federal safety standards and regulations that barge owners, including those operating in Iowa ports, must follow. Below are four things you need to know about Iowa maritime law, as well as the possible legal remedies available to individuals injured by a barge in Iowa waterways. 

What Ports Are Available For Transporting Cargo in Iowa?

Iowa has three main ports, including the Port of Burlington, Port of Dubuque, and Port of Keokuk.

The Port of Burlington is located in southeastern Iowa in Des Moines County, Iowa, and is on the Mississippi River’s western shores.  The Port of Burlington is a hub for the micropolitan area of West Burlington and Middleton, Iowa, and Gulf Port, Illinois. 

The Port of Dubuque is located in downtown Dubuque, Iowa, positioned near the upper Mississippi River inside the protected Ice Harbor. Visitors and residents enjoy the many downtown and Port of Dubuque attractions.  

The Port of Keokuk is located in southeast Iowa and lies at the mouth of the Des Moines River where it meets the Mississippi River. The Port of Keokuk has a diverse economy based on agriculture, wholesale distribution and trade, and manufacturing. Lee County has two county seats: the Port of Keokuk and Fort Madison

Thousands of residents, maritime workers, and visitors are in and out of these busy ports each year.  

U.S. Coast Guard and OSHA Safety Standards Apply to Barge Owners

The U.S. Coast Guard and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issue safety standards and regulations for barge owners who owe a duty of care to their employees to keep them safe.

OSHA, for example, per regulation 1926.605(c)(1), which covers Marine operations and equipment, provides the following: “Employees shall not be permitted to walk along the sides of covered lighters or barges with coamings more than 5 feet high unless there is a 3-foot clear walkway or a grab rail, or a taut handline is provided.”

OSHA has also put together a detailed safety manual on Deck Barge Safety that covers topics such as slips and falls, falling overboard, machinery and equipment standards, hazards associated with confined/enclosed spaces, fire hazards, training, and more.  OSHA has also issued Safety and Health Regulations for Longshoring. 

The U.S. Coast Guard has a division called the Lifesaving and Fire Safety Division (LFSD) that is responsible for creating and maintaining national and international lifesaving and fire safety standards for commercial ships, such as barges and recreational boats.  The LFSD provides oversight and expertise in the areas of passenger evacuation, survival and rescue equipment, structural fire protection, and fire detection and extinguishing systems.  Below are some resources on these topics provided by the U.S. Coast Guard: 

What Types of Accidents and Injuries Are Sustained By Workers on Iowa Barges?

Common examples of barge accidents may include collisions, wet services causing slips and falls, fires, and equipment malfunctions.  Injuries sustained from these types of accidents, and others, by Iowa maritime workers working on and off Iowa barges can be serious, which may include, but are not limited to:

  • Drowning
  • Fractured and broken bones
  • Burns
  • Spinal cord damage or paralysis
  • Amputated limbs
  • Herniated discs
  • Death

Injured workers may be able to recover for a variety of different damages including, but not limited to: 

  • Medical bills 
  • Lost wages 
  • Cost of rehabilitation 
  • Economic loss  
  • Pain and suffering 

How Can An Iowa Barge Accident Lawyer Help Me Obtain Compensation for My Injuries? 

An experienced Iowa barge accident lawyer can help evaluate your case to determine if your barge injuries resulted from an Iowa barge owner, employer or crew member, which may involve their failure to comply with state and federal safety regulations. An attorney can advise you regarding specific laws that apply to your case, such as the Jones Act or the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), as well as help you obtain the compensation you deserve for the injuries you sustained while working on a barge. Sometimes maritime injury cases will require interpreting many complex laws, as well as legal advocacy that involves negotiating workers’ compensation insurance carriers, advocating at arbitration, or even advocacy at trial.  An experienced Iowa barge accident lawyer can help you navigate through the litigation process and help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

For more information on maritime injury laws, see our article on Maritime Law that Protects You.

The Willis Law Firm takes pride in helping workers and their families who suffer from maritime-related injuries.  Do you have questions about maritime law and the remedies available for yourself or a loved one injured while working on or near an Iowa barge?  If so, give us a call at 1-800-468-4878 email us through our online webform.

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