Struck-by Vehicle Accidents
While accidents involving getting struck by a vehicle don’t seem like something that would typically occur at sea, such injuries and even deaths are far from uncommon.
The risk is particularly high for individuals working on cargo vessels. To reduce the risk of such accidents occurring, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has specific requirements for the placement of travel lanes on cargo carriers. Such traffic safety requirements apply to marine terminals as well.
Struck-by Vehicle Injuries: Factors that Contribute to Those
Various factors contribute to the risk of accidents involving vehicles in marine terminals and on cargo ships.
The use of unsafe equipment and improper worker training are once again contributing factors. Other conditions and failures that could potentially cause injuries include the following:
- Inadequate traffic control in the respective areas
- Obstacles and obstructions on the travel lanes
- Poor weather conditions
- Inadequate illumination
- Poor condition of the driving surfaces (slippery, cracked, etc.)
- Lack of communication
- Distracted driving or unsafe vehicle operation
Most of these risks are easy to address through minor operational changes that can potentially prove to be life-saving.
Addressing the common risks that can potentially contribute to struck-by vehicle accidents can be very simple. Once again, following OHA safety guidelines is one of the best ways to ensure safe work practices.
To prevent traffic-related injuries and fatalities on marine vessels and in terminals, employers and operators can undertake at least some of the following:
- Regular safety checks and equipment inspections to ensure good working condition
- Traffic control
- The introduction of substance abuse and safe driving programs
- Speed control
- The use of light and signals, stop lines and lane markings
- Ensuring walking safety on marine terminals
- Designation of parking areas
- Designation of fueling areas
- Carrying of loads that aren’t too heavy for the particular machine being operated
- Procedures for operators to cease activity whenever too tired, under the influence of medications, etc.
OSHA also has standards for operating powered industrial trucks (PITs) in marine terminals. These standards are outlined in 29 CFR 1917.43 and 1910.178. The rules apply to PITs used for the handling of materials and their transportation in marine terminals. Some of the PITs commonly utilized in such facilities include top loaders, straddle carriers, container reachstackers and hustlers.
According to the OSHA recommendations, such vehicles cannot be modified without approval from a professional engineer, and they cannot be operated by unauthorized personnel.
Worker Rights in the Case of Accidents and Injuries
Negligence when it comes to the operation of any vehicle in a marine terminal or on a cargo ship could enable a worker to file a claim or a lawsuit against an employer. Both the Jones Act and the Longshore Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) protect the right of ship or marine terminal employees.
The acts envision the provision of safe working conditions and properly functioning equipment. Negligence could come in the form of poor worker training, lack of safety gear, poorly maintained or defective equipment on site. Negligence that results in personal injury or death entitles the worker or their family to financial compensation.
In order to claim payment for medical treatment, pain and suffering, lost wages, future wages or death benefits, a worker and their legal representative should be capable of proving that negligence contributed to the struck-by vehicle accident. Even if negligence is solely partially the cause of an accident, the worker will have the grounds to seek financial assistance on behalf of the employer.