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Tugboats: Iconic but risky work environments

If you look through a collection of old and new pictures of life on the water around New York City, you cannot fail to notice the tugboats. These small but tough little vessels are responsible for towing larger ships out to sea and into port, but they can also be a risky place to work, leading to serious injury and even death. Our staff here at Tabak Mellusi & Shisha LLP know only too well the heartache that these boats can leave in their wake when someone is killed while trying to do their job.

VICE recently interviewed workers on tugboats and asked them to relate their most serious injuries. One man recalled how a worker was crushed to death when he was caught between a soft line on the vessel and a vertical winch called a capstan. He and others freely admitted that one wrong slip or movement could expose a worker, or mate to severe injury. For instance, someone can easily lose a leg if he or she is in the wrong place when the soft line recoils. This is due to the fact that when the line is tight, it contains torque, pressure or a line pull of 40,000 pounds from the barge it is attached to.

The captain of one tug boat said that his compressed vertebrae and herniated disk was aggravated after he fell four feet when he missed a step on the crane of a barge. Another worker was out of work for four months after he had to have his fingers sewed back onto his hand. He says they were ripped off when they were caught under a line. For more information concerning tug boats and injuries, please visit our page.

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