Winch, Crane, and Sling Injuries
Cranes, winches, and slings are often used to move and handle materials on or to and from vessels. Large and heavy, cranes can cause catastrophic accidents if operated the wrong way, or if the operator does not have enough experience or training. Winches under high tension can jam or fail and cause workers to be injured by the line, which can drag a person, entrap them, or cause limb damage and fatal injuries. An error in determining the direction of rotation can lead a person to make the wrong decisions, including while operating a control lever.
Factors in Material Handling/Lifting Accidents and Injuries
Crew members need to know the proper signals to give other workers, so miscommunications don’t cause a minor issue to escalate. Slings consist of chain, wire rope, and fiber rope and synthetic web types, all of which require workers to know their rated capacity, safe lifting practices, and the load’s size, weight, and center of gravity. Safe lifting, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also requires people to know how many legs and the angle the equipment makes compared to a horizontal line.
Mishandling and misuse of slings cause accidents. Knowing the history of care and usage can tell one if it has been used before in unsafe practices and if issues have been noted before. The appropriate procedures must be followed every time it is used, including protecting the sling, checking it is properly secured, and the hook is properly positioned. Slings must be periodically cleaned, lubricated, and inspected to ensure their safety. When slings are worn, corroded, their wire diameter is reduced by a third, or end fittings such as hooks and rings are damaged, they should be replaced. Broken wires and any kinking or damage to wire ropes should be addressed right away as well.
Operators not properly trained, and who may be unlicensed, are at risk of being injured. Safety procedures include calculating the load rating of cargo, proper placement and sizing of slings and rigging equipment, marking loads correctly, and testing loads and slings for integrity before operations proceed. Also, lifting areas should be cleared, and cranes should not be operated in poor weather conditions such as high winds.
Factors in an Injury Case
Maritime workers injured by winches, cranes, and slings may have a case against the negligence of a third party. Employers are required by law to compensate victims of accidents for medical care and daily living expenses, per the Jones Act. For that to happen, they must prove the employer’s actions played a role in the incident leading to the injury or death. Failing to take steps to make the working environment safe makes vessel owners, captains, and companies liable, but the risks of operating lifting and material handling equipment are well-documented, so relevant parties should be aware of them.