What to do in the event of a maritime accident
Report and document your accident and injury
Immediately report your accident and injury to a superior on your vessel, rig or job site, such as the captain, toolpusher, your supervisor, foreman, or the safety man. If that isn’t possible, let your co-workers or other members of the crew know what happened. Also, call the office to report your accident and injury. Most companies require that all accidents be reported, even accidents without injury. Oftentimes, injuries do not become immediately noticeable or disabling until days, weeks or even months after an accident.
Make sure that your superior prepares and files a written report of your accident and injury with your employer. Without a written accident report, the fact that you had an accident may be disputed if you need to make a claim.
Photos of the location where the accident occurred and of any unsafe, hazardous or dangerous conditions that caused it are also important. If possible, ask the person who prepares your accident report to take the photos. If not, take them yourself or ask a co-worker to take photos for you. With cell phone cameras so accessible, you have a better chance of documenting your accident and injuries than ever before. If possible, take photos the day of the accident.
Obtain a copy of your “accident or incident report” and any written or recorded statements that you were required to give.
Seek medical treatment
If you were hurt in the accident, go to your doctor, the emergency room of a hospital or an urgent care center as soon as possible following the accident. Be sure to tell the doctors and any other health care providers you see, such as nurses and physician assistants, about your accident and how you were hurt or injured as a result of the accident.
Identify witnesses to your accident
Get the full names and contact information of all witnesses to your accident and/or your injuries. Write down their phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses.
In maritime cases, it is especially important to also ask witnesses for their permanent address and phone numbers as well as the addresses and phone numbers of relatives who will always know how to contact them. Maritime workers often change their addresses depending on where the work is. Permanent addresses and phone numbers are a key to later contacting these witnesses for your case.
Document your income
Keep all of your pay stubs and other evidence of your income – including overtime hours and bonuses. Tax returns and W-2s will show how much you made throughout the year, but pay stubs show how much overtime you regularly worked, your employee benefits and whether you were making more money as you progressed with the company.
Documents regarding your earnings and benefits will be used as the basis to compute the loss of income, earning capacity and/or benefits that you sustained as a result of your accident.
Prevent a maritime accident
As a seaman or other maritime worker, the best thing you can do is take measures to prevent yourself from becoming involved in an accident.
Since maritime work can be dangerous, we offer the following suggestions* to help you from becoming injured on the job or causing harm to someone else:
• Exercise the highest level of care in doing your work and insist that others do the same
• Do not do anything that needlessly endangers you, your co-workers or anyone else
• Be responsible for your safety and the safety of fellow workers
• Regard safety as an important part of getting the job done
• Learn and follow all safety rules that apply to your job and the work that you are required to perform
• Try to prevent your supervisor and co-workers from violating safety rules
• Report to someone in authority if the work you have been ordered to perform is unsafe or unreasonably dangerous to you or anyone else
• Do not perform a task that you have not been trained to perform or do not know how to do
• Attend all safety, tool box or job safety meetings before your job begins. They can help you identify the risks and dangers of your job and how to eliminate or safely handle them
• If you see or learn of an unsafe or dangerous condition, immediately clean it up, remove it or eliminate it. If you cannot handle it yourself, report the danger to a supervisor and guard against the risk of harming yourself or others by using devices such as warning cones, barricades or tape. Also, warn your co-workers or others in the area
• Use proper lifting techniques and don’t lift anything that is too heavy for you – get a crane, winch or other equipment to assist with the lift
• Keep your work area free of clutter
• Use the safety devices, protective equipment and clothing required for your job
• Inspect tools, devices and equipment before using them and repair or replace those that are not working properly
• Wear you work vest or life jacket and make sure it is properly secured in the event you fall into the water
• Learn what to do in the event that someone falls overboard
• Wear ear plugs when working around loud machinery
• If you have problems such as hearing loss, impaired eyesight, a hernia, etc., report them to your supervisor prior to starting work to determine whether reasonable accommodation can be made for you
• Be sure that gangways, walkways and ladders are properly secured and of sufficient size and construction
• Do not enter a closed hold or compartment of a vessel until you have confirmed that it has been freed of gas
• Learn crane signals if you are working with or around a crane and stay a safe distance from a crane’s hook, block and boom
• Avoid being underneath the load of a crane
• Stay clear of the bight of wires and lines
• Use good rigging practices
• Step over manhole covers, not on them
• Watch your step and be wary of slippery substances, tripping hazards and dangerous openings
• Learn the signs and treatment of heat stress and fatigue
• Get enough sleep and stay alert
• Do not consume alcohol or take dangerous or illegal drugs
• If you take prescription medication, heed the warning labels
• Do not engage in horseplay on the job
• Obey “no smoking” rules and guidelines
*These tips are offered only as suggestions.