Inland Waterway Accidents

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Port of Columbia, Alabama

The Port of Columbia is a 59-acre facility on the Chattahoochee River, served by a spur of the Alabama Midland Railroad. Columbia was established in 1820 and later served by paddlewheel steamboats. It became an important port city handling plantation trade and cargo containing lumber and cotton. At one time, the town was considered prosperous and was the seat of Henry County from 1822 to 1833. When the railroad was built the riverboat industry declined, and the commercial center became Dothan, Ala., which was elected county seat in 1903.

Columbia is located where Alabama Highways 52 and 95 intersect. The port, therefore, affords access to the regions railroad and motor vehicle transportation infrastructures. Today, it is part of a grain elevator facility operated by Alabama Farmers Cooperative, Inc. The AFC Grain Division acquired the river terminal to help meet the needs of large local farmers and small grain companies. An elevator extends from a concrete dock to a processing facility on the premises.  

Common River Port Hazards

At ports anywhere, there can be many hazards. Workers at these facilities have sustained injuries or have been killed on the job while doing just what was expected of them. In many instances, there is someone or something to blame. For example, failure to maintain equipment can lead to failures ranging from snapped cables to blown compressors, to the collapse of large cranes.

Equipment maintenance also extends to the vehicles used on site. Cargo handling trucks, vessels, forklifts, and tractors require great care, especially if they are used for heavy duty purposes. Their failure can harm workers and others working or standing near them. A brake failure can cause multiple injuries and fatalities, while a rollover can not only hurt people but cause precious cargo to be lost. Vehicular safety is also dependent on available traffic control signals, driving surfaces, illumination, communication, weather, and the alertness and attentiveness of the driver. Therefore, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration considers traffic safety a major priority at coastal and inland ports.

Employees are also at risk of injury due to fatigue. Those who work long hours without breaks may not be aware of safety hazards and miss important steps while securing vessels, loading cargo, and managing other tasks. These risks are present while lifting cargo directly or with winches or cranes, and certainly when mooring vessels against docks and jetties with rope.

Workers don’t necessarily have to be operating specialized equipment to be at risk of injury. A quick slip on a wet surface can send someone tumbling down the stairs, or off a platform and into the water. Working at heights is especially dangerous if one were to fall. Someone on an unfenced walkway or dock edge, or in areas of a ship that have inadequate access, can easily fall and be injured or killed.

If you’ve sustained an injury or a loved one was killed working at the Port of Columbia, contacts us via the online form for more information about how to present the case and receive possible compensation under the federal and maritime law.

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