Does Fatigue Put Maritime Workers at Risk?

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Maritime workers are essential to the global economy. More than 90 percent of the world’s trade is shipped by sea or across navigable waters. However, the maritime industry is plagued with falls overboard, groundings caused by navigation errors, collisions, fires, drownings and even amputation injuries. Unfortunately, many of these accidents are caused by fatigued maritime workers.

For those who work at sea, fatigue is just part of the job. Maritime workers perform intense labor for longer hours than many workers on land. Whether they work on a luxury cruise ship or on an Alaskan crab fishing, most seamen work more than 12 hours a day. However, studies show fatigued maritime workers put the ships, the crew and themselves in danger.

According a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, fatigue creates a constant state of weariness that lowers mental abilities and physical weariness. For most seamen, chronic fatigue is not uncommon, especially when you factor in intense labor, quality of sleep, work shifts, the length of tours, sleep disturbances (such as drills) and time zone crossings.

The Maritime Industry Needs to Stop Thinking of Fatigue as “Part of the Job”

The maritime industry requires specialized skills and high levels of concentration. That said, workers need to take steps that allow them to remain alert while on the job and avoid maritime accidents. These steps include:

  • Complying with maritime regulations that determine the minimum hours of rest and allotted hours of work
  • Employers must schedule drills around sleeping schedules in order to minimize sleep disturbances
  • Schedule dangerous work during the day, when crewmembers are more alert and have the most energy
  • Employers must increase awareness for the risks associated with fatigued workers
  • Take strategic naps
  • Break up monotonous tasks

Latti & Anderson LLP is a maritime accident law firm that helps those who are injured at sea.