What Are the Most Dangerous Maritime Jobs?

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Thousands of people are hurt each year working in the maritime industry. (CDC, Marine Terminals,, and Port Operations). These injuries occur in various jobs, all of which can be dangerous.

Our Houston maritime injury lawyers explain the most dangerous maritime jobs.

1. Oil Rig Workers

According to IBIS World, 5,758 people work in the offshore oil rig construction industry in the United States. (IBIS World, Offshore Oil Rig & Platform Construction in the United States). At any given time, a working oil rig can have more than 100 people on it. These people work in a variety of functions, from drilling to maintenance to personnel management.

Engineers evaluate and plan drilling activity, needed tools and safety protocols. Drillers operate equipment and perform their daily tasks. They plan and carry out drilling operations, monitor work and maintain equipment. Pumpers work alongside drillers to operate, manage and maintain pumps. While operators may perform routine maintenance, mechanics have additional duties repairing machines, vehicles, and equipment.

Crew chiefs and personnel managers on oil rigs assign duties, supervise employment, and ensure safety protocols are followed. Floor hands assist in the moving of equipment and tools. Derrick hands report to the driller, usually moving pipes and maintaining the operation. There may be ancillary positions like a chef or other hospitality services to assist workers with the necessities of life while on the rig. A rig manager may oversee the entire operation.

All these positions can be dangerous in their own way. By the very nature of oil rig functions, workers use heavy equipment and materials. Explosions, fire, and collapse are a constant concern. Personnel may be pressured to work quickly despite the need for strict safety protocols. For these reasons, offshore oil rig jobs are some of the most dangerous in the maritime industry.

2. Longshoremen, Cargo Workers, Dock Workers

Longshoremen are the people who load and unload cargo from a ship. Just as there are many types of ships, many different types of cargo may need to be loaded or unloaded. For these ships, having the cargo they need delivered safely and in a timely fashion is vital to their operation.

The work can be dangerous for these maritime workers for a variety of reasons. They work in all types of weather – day and night. They may work on wet and uneven surfaces. The cargo they transport is heavy; by itself, it creates a risk of crushing and stuck-between accidents. In addition, cargo is often moved with heavy machinery.

Materials transported can be hazardous. There is a risk of chemical exposure, explosions, and burns. Repetitive motion injuries are an additional concern. Because of the physical nature of the work, exhaustion and a lack of adequate personal protection equipment can also make cargo and dock work in the maritime industry dangerous for longshore workers.

3. Fishermen

Commercial fishing is a billion-dollar industry in the United States. (CDC, Commercial Fishing Safety: National Overview). While it is lucrative, it is also dangerous. The industry averaged 42 deaths per year over a fifteen-year period from 2000-2015. Many more suffered injuries.

Some ways that commercial fishing injuries can occur are:

  • Vessel disasters, shipwrecks
  • Flooding, large waves, ship instability
  • Man overboard
  • Injuries on the ship
  • Diving accidents
  • Injuries onshore

There are a variety of reasons that commercial fishing is dangerous. The nature of the work requires crews to work in extreme temperatures and harsh weather conditions. The catch is heavy, along with the machinery and equipment used in the work. Fishermen put in long hours, often with little rest. Equipment must be meticulously maintained, and work must be carefully planned with safety in mind. Despite safety precautions, commercial fishing remains a dangerous line of work.

4. Shipbuilders

To even have a maritime industry, ships must be designed and built. The task falls to marine engineers and shipbuilders. Not only do shipyard workers build vessels, but they may also disassemble them.

Workers face a variety of dangers. They work with heavy equipment and materials. In addition, they may be exposed to various environmental hazards like chemicals, fumes, paints, and fuels. Noise exposure is another risk, along with the ergonomic risks of having to perform tasks in uncomfortable positions. As shipbuilders perform the important task of bringing ships to life, they also face a variety of hazards that make their jobs dangerous. (CDC, Shipyards).

5. Underwater Welding

When ships, oil platforms, and pipelines need to be repaired, the answer may be underwater welding. While the work can be technically challenging, it is often the most economical when repairs are required. There are multiple techniques, including dry hyperbaric welding and wet welding, where the electrode directly encounters the water and surrounding environment.

Electric shock is a top concern for underwater welders. Decompression sickness and other cognitive and physical adaptive risks are also a concern. These dangers must be monitored.

6. Ordinary seaman, Able seaman

Ordinary seaman and able seaman perform the everyday tasks of operating the ship. Their duties vary considerably, including monitoring the vessel’s security and identifying risks and hazards in the ship’s structure, like rust. They may sweep the deck, removing debris and accumulations that may cause injury. They may position wires and ropes, braces, tie-downs, and the like. They may operate launch and recover boats. An able seaman may handle emergency situations and operate machinery.

Ordinary seamen and able seamen face a variety of dangers in their duties. They must be constantly vigilant of the risks posed by heavy equipment, elements of nature, and slippery surfaces. They have one of the most dangerous maritime jobs as they constantly navigate these risks.

Compensation and Financial Help Available for Injured Maritime Workers

A person who is injured while working in the maritime industry may access financial help. There are several laws that may exist to help these workers and their families. Compensation may cover medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages.

Any claim involving maritime employment can be complex. Our team of lawyers at Haun Mena helps injured individuals access financial compensation when they are hurt in the maritime industry. Let us help you evaluate your options and bring the appropriate claims. Contact us today to talk about your case.

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