Common Causes of Accidents for Maritime Workers

Dangerous accidents are unfortunately all too common for those employed on working vessels such as tugs and tankers. While every case involves unique factors, there are some mistakes that operators make over and over, sometimes with deadly results. Many of the most common causes of accidents for maritime workers can be traced to fatigue and poor bridge management.

Mistakes on the Bridge

A boat operator can establish the most comprehensive safety management system ever devised, but it does no good if personnel on duty ignore the guidelines. Failure to follow policies and instructions issued by superiors is one of the leading causes of accidents on working vessels. Bad decisions, lack of adequate lookouts, incomplete knowledge, and failure to use equipment properly are also factors that frequently play a role in maritime accidents, and these factors all relate to poor management of bridge resources.

Overwork Leads to Fatigue with Deadly Results

Before the fatal accident with the tug Specialist on the Hudson River in 2016, the crews of the boats involved had only four or five hours of interrupted sleep during the preceding three days. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the collision and sinking of the Specialist was caused by crew fatigue and that fatigue was itself due to inappropriate manning of the boats. The mate and two deckhands perished when the Specialist struck a barge and was pushed under the barge by the current.

Mates and crew members working without adequate rest often cannot make decisions or react quickly enough to avert an accident. They can even fall asleep, which was the case with the articulated tug-barge Nathan E. Stewart which ran aground in British Columbia because the mate on duty fell asleep and missed a critical turn.

Owners and Operators Have the Power to Reduce the Risks

Proper training and management could allow operators to avoid or substantially reduce the risk of many accidents on tugs and other working vessels. When crew members understand and follow safety policies and management provides adequate staffing with sufficient rest time, accidents such as the one that claimed three lives aboard the Specialist could potentially be averted. Unfortunately, the temptation to cut costs to secure profits can push safety to the bottom of the priority list, and mariners often pay the price. 

Work with Experienced Maritime Attorneys

The dedicated legal team at Latti & Anderson LLP understands the hazards faced by maritime workers and we are ready to fight for a full and fair recovery if you or a loved one suffered injuries on the water. Contact us now to learn how our maritime attorneys could help.