From recreational ships to cargo barges, maritime workers fill crucial roles on vessels that carry products and people across the ocean.
However, working in maritime transportation also comes with a higher risk of injury or illness than many other types of occupations.
Risks of physical harm
In addition to unpredictable, frequently dangerous weather conditions, oceangoing transportation workers may experience:
- Intense noise or vibration levels that may contribute to hearing loss and/or fatigue from lack of sleep
- Extended exposure to ultraviolet light, which can lead to skin cancer and other dermatological conditions
- Heavy lifting that can lead to repetitive stress injuries to the neck, shoulders, back, hip, knees and other joints
- Malfunctioning equipment that can cause catastrophic injuries
- Slippery surfaces, narrow passageways and steep ladders that increase the risk of fall injuries, including broken bones or fractures
The physically demanding tasks that many workers perform can also make it more likely they will develop joint or spinal injuries over time, with the potential for long-term disability.
Other onboard risks
Chemical and biological exposures can also impact maritime workers’ health. In addition to cargos of potentially toxic chemicals, crew may come in contact with fuels, industrial cleansers and exhaust fumes as well as travel-related infections and contagious diseases.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that workers in marine transportation also have a higher-than-average fatality rate, including deaths from drownings, work accidents, cardiovascular conditions, workplace violence and suicide.
Maritime workers who have experienced a job-related injury due to unsafe conditions should know that they may be eligible for benefits under the Jones Act. In addition to coverage for medical bills, injured crew members may be able to receive compensation for lost income, diminished earning capacity and pain and suffering.