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What are the top workplace safety risks on container ships?

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2023 | Maritime Law

Container ships play a major role in the international economy. They allow for relatively quick and cost-effective transit between nations. One container ship can move thousands of individual containers across the open ocean for a relatively competitive cost.

The workers on container ships do not have the same hazards and stressors that those who work on consumer vessels or fishing vessels might. They don’t have to deal with many other people, and they generally don’t need to handle heavy equipment while on the open ocean. However, there are unique risks associated with container ships, and mariners familiar with those risks will have an easier time staying safe on the job.

What makes container ships hazardous?

One of the leading safety concerns on a container ship is a collision. These vessels are so large and unwieldy that they can sometimes collide with other boats or with infrastructure ranging from offshore oil rigs to docks. If a collision occurs or if there is damage due to age affecting the vessel’s structural integrity, then there are concerns about the vessel foundering. Both collisions and incidents where vessels struggle to stay afloat could lead to numerous hazards for the workers on board.

The containers themselves can be a source of risk. They can shift while out on the ocean, especially if there are big waves or major weather issues. Individual containers can slide out of place and could then fall, possibly striking workers and causing severe injuries. If the containers accidentally open, merchandise or equipment from within them could break free and hit workers as well.

There is also the possibility of a fire or explosion occurring due to the contents of certain containers getting jostled around while at sea. Any of these incidents could potentially lead to severe injuries for container ship employees. They could suffer broken bones and brain injuries. Their injuries might be so severe that they lose a body part. Occasionally, workers may even die because of unpredictable incidents on container ships.

Unlike those working at terrestrial locations, those staffing container ships often have a more challenging process ahead if they need compensation for a work injury. Filing a lawsuit under the Jones Act is often necessary for those hurt on the job if they work in a maritime environment.