Maritime law enables an injured worker or their beneficiaries to receive compensation when their accident is found to be due to the negligence of another party, such as their employer. However, liability can be hard to pinpoint if the argument is that a machine or piece of equipment simply did not work as it was designed to. That is unless a few things can be proven. If one sustains a serious injury, becomes disabled, or is even killed as a result of a failure aboard a vessel, a claim can be made that says:
- The employer or vessel owner did not provide the employee with adequate training.
- The proper gear was not supplied, which would have protected the worker from injury.
- The failed item was not properly maintained and repaired prior to the incident.
- Vessel systems were not thoroughly monitored, and operating procedures weren’t followed.
Workers, therefore, bear the burden of proof in the process of seeking compensation.
A failure of onboard equipment can lead to electrocution. Defective tools, damaged wire insulation, corrosion, inadequate electrical isolation, and a lack of training or qualifications in working with electrical components and connections can lead to problems. Improper grounding, cables pinched between doors and hatches, and cables that come in contact with grinders and saws can as well.
There are many other types of failures, from blown valves to snapped cables, to failed cranes. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) oversees various regulations regarding equipment safety. Its gear accreditation and certification program applies to cargo handling systems used in shipyards, marine terminals, and for long shoring. In addition to certifying equipment, the regulation also calls for loose gear/wire rope testing, with calibration reports based on tests no more than six months old.
The U.S. legal code also calls for things like maintenance of navigational-safety equipment on towing vessels. Failures and accidents must be reported. Ship owners are required to repair any failed component or system. They are responsible for determining if it is in working order to proceed with a voyage, although a failure doesn’t necessarily mean the ship is unseaworthy, under the law. Propulsion systems, radar, steering gear, sounding devices, surveillance equipment, lighting, or a gyrocompass all fall under the category.
The potential for failure doesn’t only include navigation or electrical components. Anything used to conduct one’s job duties aboard a ship can fail and cause serious injury, including ladders, doors and latches, and winches. Potential problem areas range from rigging equipment to complete engine systems. Hydraulics, lighting, pulleys, and even safety equipment itself can create hazards. Proper maintenance is required to keep anything working without the danger of failing and to stay compliant with the law. A larger scale quality control plan is needed and should include standard maintenance, and workers should be diligent in spotting potential issues over their normal course of duty, alerting other crew members, the ship’s captain, and others of a problem. The goal is to make repairs and correct any safety issue before equipment fails, to avoid serious injuries, disabilities, and even deaths.