Articles Posted in Injury at Sea

Published on:

Disembarking-via-gangway-OSHAWe have all heard that working in the commercial fishing industry is the most dangerous type of work in the nation. Commercial fishing has long topped the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ list of jobs with the most injuries and fatalities. However, many accidents happen before boats leave the dock or upon returning from sea. This is because many vessels are not seaworthy, and seaworthiness begins with safe access to ladders, walkways, gangways, and gangplanks.  Gangway related injuries and fatalities are so common that The Shipowners’ Protection Limited, a mutual insurance organization, has published a report titled Gangways, which can be read in full here. 

Under Maritime Law, a vessel is considered unseaworthy when a vessel is poorly kept or poorly maintained. In some cases, ship owners may fail to supply proper means for the crew to pass from ship to shore. A seaworthy vessel must have well-maintained equipment that is in working order. Workers must be properly prepared and trained, and routes for boarding, disembarking, and loading a vessel must be hazard-free. Jumping on or from the vessel is not an option. Even if the vessel is less than a foot from the dock, the ship owner is required to provide a safe passage for workers to and from the dock. When evaluating a case, a lawyer will consider the nature of an injury as well as the seaworthiness of the vessel.

Maritime work is dangerous by its very nature. However, that does not mean that workers must accept a high level of risk. There are many federal and industry safety standards that apply to boarding and disembarking a vessel, including Coast Guard regulations and OSHA regulations. If these safety standards are ignored, there can be liability on the part of the vessel owner. For example, using a gangway to board a vessel does carry some amount of risk. But that risk is mitigated when safety precautions and guidelines are followed. If, however, safety is ignored, then the act of using the gangway carries unacceptable risk. This is considered negligence and unseaworthiness. Workers MUST have a safe and well-maintained way of getting aboard and disembarking a vessel.

Published on:

NEWDAWNMED-1A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew medevaced a 58-year-old male after he suffered an ankle injury while aboard the F/V NEW DAWN. The 50-foot commercial vessel was near Shelikof Strait when the incident occurred on Sunday, June 18th.

“Due to the crewman’s possible need for an orthopedic surgeon, we determined the best course of action was to get him off the New Dawn and place him aboard the Jayhawk helicopter for transfer to advanced medical care” said Mr. Cory Cichoracki, watchstander at Sector Anchorage command center. “Despite the weather, the aircrew alongside the crew of the New Dawn, was able to complete a successful hoist.”

Watchstanders requested the Jayhawk launch after the duty flight surgeon recommended medevac of the injured crewmember. You can watch the heroic video here.

Published on:

Stacey-and-Jacobsen-Cropped-e1481062312338On March 9, 2017, in a landmark case handled by Stacey and Jacobsen, PLLC, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled unanimously that punitive damages may be awarded to injured fishermen and seamen when the case involves a general maritime unseaworthiness claim. Where an employer recklessly provides a vessel or equipment that is not reasonably fit, the employee may bring a separate additional claim of punitive damages. This ruling is a precedent setting victory for maritime workers throughout the nation. No other State Supreme Court has yet ruled on this issue. We are very pleased that employees now have an additional weapon in their arsenal to obtain justice and, at the same time, hopefully curtail dangerous conduct of shipowners.

Allan Tabingo was a deckhand aboard F/V AMERICAN TRIUMPH when the accident occurred. After fish are brought aboard the vessel, a hatch is opened on the deck so that deckhands can shovel the fish through the hatch for processing. To move the last of the fish from the deck into the hatch, a deckhand must get down on all-fours and push the remaining fish through the hatch using their hands. Tabingo was on his knees gathering the fish when another deckhand began closing the hatch. The deckhand realized that Allan Tabingo’s hand was in danger, and tried to stop the hatch from closing. The handle on the hydraulic control valve was broken and repeatedly popped out of the valve. The hatch closed on Tabingo’s hand, severing two of his fingers. The vessel operator had been aware of the broken control handle for two years prior to the incident, yet failed to repair it. In fact, the crew tied one end of a piece of line around the handle and the other end to the ship’s rail so that when the handled popped out, it would not fall overboard. Alan Tabingo suffered the amputation of two fingers and the loss of his livelihood.

Tabingo filed suit in King County Superior Court against the vessel operator, American Seafoods. He asserted Jones Act negligence and general maritime law unseaworthiness claims. The punitive damages claim was based on the precedent setting 2009 Supreme Court of the United States ruling in Atlantic Sounding v. Townsend. The trial judge decided that punitive damages did not apply and dismissed Tabingo’s claim. Tabingo appealed to the State of Washington Supreme Court.

Published on:

HandXRay-300x262Allan Tabingo was injured at sea due to defective machinery on his employer’s fishing vessel.  A hydraulic lever controlling a fish hatch had been defective for two years. When the hatch operator tried to activate the hydraulic lever to stop the hatch from closing, the handle on the lever popped out of the valve. The hatch could not be stopped.  The result was a traumatic hand injury and the loss of a father’s livelihood. The accident could have been prevented had American Seafoods simply repaired the handle when it was found to be defective two years earlier.

On January 17, 2017, lawyers in the case of Allan Tabingo vs. American Triumph LLC argued in the Washington State Supreme Court the question of whether an injured seaman may recover punitive damages when injured on an unseaworthy vessel?  You can view the arguments here. Originally denied at the trial court, this case was chosen for a fast track (“interlocutory”) appeal and sent to the Washington State Supreme Court due to the importance of this issue for injured fishermen and seamen.

The Jones Act and Maritime Law already provide for Compensatory Damages.  An injured seaman may recover a monetary amount necessary to replace what was lost due to his/her injury. Compensatory Damages usually cover:

Published on:

Leann-FV-300x239The captain of the 75-foot F/V LEANN reported that a crewmember fell and suffered a head injury while fishing more than 20 miles off Florence, Oregon. The call to the Coos Bay, Oregon Coast Guard came in just after midnight on December 15, 2016. The captain reported that the injured man was first knocked unconscious, but when he woke he was combative.

The Coast Guard flew a helicopter crew to the vessel, lowered a rescue swimmer to prepare for the lift, hoisted the injured man into the MH-65 Dolphin, and flew him to the Bay Area Hospital in Coos Bay, Oregon.

Weather on scene was calm and clear with light winds.Coast-Guard-300x238

Published on:

Injury_at_seaIf you are a maritime worker or commercial fisherman, you already know that work at sea is dangerous. Jones Act or maritime law is in place to give rights to workers as well as an extra layer of protection. Know your rights, and if an accident does occur, we recommend that you follow these guidelines:

1. Report the Accident – It is imperative that you let your supervisor or captain know immediately that you have been injured. Jones Act or Maritime Law requires the injured party to report any work-related injury within seven (7) days, but don’t wait that long. The insurance company may assume that if you didn’t report the accident right away, it wasn’t very serious, so don’t wait. If you get hurt while working and you believe that your injuries need medical attention or have even the slightest chance of causing you to miss work, report it right away.

2. Seek Medical Attention – The law requires your employer to see that you receive medical treatment for your injuries. If you are at sea and your injuries are serious, the ship should have the Coast Guard medevac you to a hospital. If you are far out at sea or in international waters, a Coast Guard helicopter may be able to pick you up as soon as you are within range of the United States. The ship has the ability to consult with a physician by phone or radio if your condition is serious. And, if you are in a foreign country, your employer must get you proper medical treatment and get you back home at their expense. Your employer must pay for all medical attention that you need if you are injured or become ill while in the service of the vessel.

Published on:

ASTORIA, Ore. - A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Astoria, search for a man overboard dummy during a training exercise with the Columbia River Bar Pilots west of the Columbia River entrance, Nov. 8, 2010. The Coast Guard and Columbia River Bar Pilots began conducting the semi-annual joint drill in 2009 and continue to practice man overboard retrieval techniques to ensure that procedures for locating a person in the water will run smoothly as the two forces work together.U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nate Littlejohn
On November 26th, 2016  the Coast Guard rescued an injured crew member more than 170 miles offshore from the Columbia River. The 23-year-old man was aboard the 617-foot Global Saikai, which had left Longview, WA for Kashima, Japan carrying a load of timber.

Coast Guard Sector Columbia River received the call after the crew member fell from a ladder and broke his arm. An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew was launched from Warrenton, OR to transfer the man to emergency medical personnel, who in turn took him to Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria, OR.

Weather at the scene was reported as raining with light wind, 13 foot seas and 9 mile visibility.

Published on:

On Saturday, June 25, The U.S. Coast Guard received word of an incident aboard the 79-foot fishing vessel, PACIFIC STAR. A medevac flight by a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter was sent to the vessel traveling about 74 miles southeast of Kodiak, Alaska.

The call for assistance by the operator of PACIFIC STAR reached Coast Guard Sector Anchorage at approximately 11:03 a.m. A deckhand had been struck in the head by deck rigging and, as recommended by the duty flight surgeon, required medical attention.

The helicopter arrived at the scene just before 1 p.m. Saturday. According to Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer 1st Class Kelly Parker, the Jayhawk crew was able to lift the injured man on board, despite weather conditions that included 6-foot seas and 29-mph winds.

Published on:

A fisherman aboard the BARBARA J has been airlifted for medical treatment. The crewman reportedly was injured in a fall down the vessel’s stairs and needed emergency medical treatment.  The accident happened on Sunday near Unimak Pass.  Weather conditions were reported as 29 mph winds with 6 foot seas.  The crewman was taken by helicopter to Cold Bay, where he was transferred to Anchorage for further medical treatment.

Slip and falls down vessel stairs and vessel ladders frequently result in serious injury to fishing boat crewmen.  It is important that all vessels have safely constructed and designed ladders.  Stairs should be constructed at safe angles, have proper rise and depth, have non slip surfaces, and be equipped with proper hand rails.  Current safe construction standards for vessel stairs can be found in ASTM F-1166-07.

Published on:

Crew from the 285′ Factory Trawler AMERICAN TRIUMPH called the Coast Guard on February 12 to report that a 36-year old man had two of his fingers severed by a steel door. A Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter crew in Cold Bay flew approximately 92 miles north to the trawler, safely medevaced the man, and flew him back to Cold Bay for emergency medical services.

AMERICAN TRIUMPH is owned by American Seafoods Company. According to the company’s website, the trawler is currently catching and processing pollack, hake, and sole.