Maritime Falling Overboard and Drowning Accidents

Sea workers face all sorts of injury risks, sometimes from the negligence of a shipowner or captain. One of those dangerous—and one of the most dangerous, at that—is falling overboard.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falling overboard is “the second leading cause of death among commercial fishermen, nationwide.” This problem is severe enough that in 2010, the United States Congress passed the US Coast Guard Authorization Act, which was intended in part to prevent sailors and crew members from falling overboard.

Sadly, such tragedies still occur—and many of these falling-overboard events are entirely preventable. For instance, a crew member can fall overboard if he or she uses or leans against a handrail that has been improperly managed or is otherwise defective. As well, if a ship fails to warn its crew members of a rough or violent sea, then a crew member may be at risk for being pitched overboard if he or she steps outside during bad weather. And finally, a crew member can die after falling overboard if the ship fails to execute a timely or safe search and rescue effort.

How Falling Overboard Injury and Death Occurs

Even the strongest of swimmers can find themselves in a life-or-death scenario should they fall overboard. Drowning accidents are frequently caused by unexpected falls overboard. Various causes of falling overboard  and drowning include:

  • The release of mooring lines at dock’s edge. It’s easy for workers to slip and fall into the water and drown, especially if they’re not wearing a life jacket.
  • Unlocking spreader cables on a barge. If no life ring or jacket is available, consequences can be deadly.
  • Working aboard a tugboat or barge. In many cases, the life-saving equipment on such vessels is defective.
  • Operating a Bobcat on a barge. Though you might not associate Bobcats with drowning, an unpredictable lurch can send someone overboard.
  • Closing covers on a hopper barge. Falls from barge covers can indeed be hazardous, especially without a life vest on.
  • Egress from a tramper vessel. When an inadequate Jacob’s ladder comes into play, falls onto the deck can occur.
  • Operating a front-end loader on an open deck barge. It’s surprisingly easy to drive right over the edge of the barge. Without a life vest on, tragedy occurs quickly.
  • Accessing a barge from a floating dock. In many cases, there is no safe access to the barge, causing workers to fall off and become crushed.
  • Operating a catwalk alone. Without co-workers keeping watch, a fall from a catwalk can be deadly.
  • Walking atop stacked containers. While containers may seem steady, falls are likely when spreader bars pull away.

Maritime Injury and Drowning Accident Lawyer

These falls can happen on commercial vessels, but they can also happen on vessels such as cruise ships, as well. If you’re at sea, you’re at risk for falling overboard. If such an event occurs, you may want to contact an experienced Maritime Lawyer. Those in charge of a vessel are tasked with keeping her safe and keeping her crew free from harm. If you were seriously injured due to the negligence or error of a ship’s manager or other authorities, then it’s worth speaking to an experienced maritime lawyer.


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