One of the purposes of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act is to ensure that employers carry insurance that provides benefits to those in New York who load and unload ships and are injured on the job. The U.S. Department of Labor notes that not only does the Act require coverage for medical expenses and compensation for those who are injured while performing these duties, it also includes provisions for a longshoreman’s family after a fatal injury.
Because of the extreme dangers unique to the jobs, these fatalities are all too common. They are also often preventable. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has gathered data on the causes of worker deaths in the longshoring and marine terminals industry in order to promote the development of safety guidelines.
- Vehicle accidents are among the most frequent sources of fatal injuries. For example, a worker may be struck by a front-end loader that does not have the required functional safety alerts. While working on roll-on/roll-off ships or unloading and transfer operations, a longshoreman may be struck by a vehicle in areas with poor visibility. Forklifts also contribute to many “struck by” accidents.
- Falls cause longshore worker deaths from both injuries and drowning. Improper procedures, a lack of guard rails and safety harnesses, and other unsafe working conditions have led to many fatal injuries. While falling into the water may seem like less of a risk, failure to wear life vests, defective life vests and inadequate life rings significantly increase the chances of a drowning death.
- Working with the cargo itself also leads to “struck by” and “crushed by” injuries due to improperly secured or stacked crates and materials. Cranes, trucks and forklifts that are not loaded correctly can tip or release their loads, as well.
Although the OSHA report raises awareness of the hazards longshoremen face, it does not mandate any specific practices or actions that may help prevent more fatalities.