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Employers must take appropriate steps to mitigate risks of injury to seamen

For anyone who makes a living by working aboard a barge, ocean liner, fishing boat or cruise ship; there are certain risks and dangers that are inherent to working on any water-bound vessel. Depending on the type of ship and nature of one's work, an individual may suffer injury or death due to a slip-and-fall, equipment failure, fall overboard, exposure to hazardous materials and being struck by a falling object.

Like any employer, ship owners and sea captains have a duty to protect workers from suffering injury or death by providing a safe and hazard-free environment. While there are obviously certain known hazards to working aboard any type of sea vessel, an employer must ensure workers are properly trained and equipped with the appropriate safety gear.

A lawsuit was recently filed by a seaman who suffered severe back injuries while working aboard a large barge. According to the lawsuit, the man's employer instructed that he "manually move a 20-foot...hose from the deck of one barge to another." Despite the fact that this type of equipment is of considerable weight, the man's employer failed to provide an "adequate lifting device."

Consequently, the man suffered serious and painful injuries to his lower back which will necessitate surgical intervention. In addition to the pain and suffering he's experienced, in his lawsuit the man also cites psychological pain, disability, loss of enjoyment, lost wages, diminished earning capacity and medical expenses. He is seeking maintenance and cure totaling $3.65 million.

Employers who fail to take measures to protect seamen from suffering painful physical injuries should be held accountable. Under the Jones Act, injured seaman can file a claim for maintenance and cure to account for daily living and medical expenses.

Source: Louisiana Record, "Seaman asserting back injury sues Lebeouf Bros. Towing," Carol Ostrow, Sept. 21, 2015

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