If someone had to create a list of what they thought were the biggest safety concerns for offshore workers, they would very likely not include the most prevalent risk. People might think of oil and gas workers and may then rush to the conclusion that explosions for fires are the biggest safety concern.
On the other hand, if they think of professional fishermen and others who work on vessels, they might think of drowning incidents, usually preceded by someone falling overboard, as the biggest safety risk. Obviously, explosions, fires, drownings and similar incidents are reasons for concern among maritime employees. However, the biggest risk in an offshore work environment actually relates to getting to work rather than the job itself.
What federal statistics show
When looking at industry safety data gathered between 2003 and 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found a surprising trend. Specifically, when looking at maritime worker fatalities, the CDC found that more than half of all reported fatalities (51%) included in the data analyzed were the result of transportation incidents.
Workers were at more risk of fatal injury on their way to or from an offshore work location than they were while actively on the job. Of those transportation fatalities reported, roughly three-quarters of the incidence involved aircraft, although transportation to offshore locations by boat also resulted in some fatalities.
The claims process for those injured in an offshore location or adjusting to a loved one’s untimely passing can be very different than the process required of those who held a terrestrial job back on land. Instead of filing a workers’ compensation claim, injured workers or their surviving family members will need to pursue a civil lawsuit.
People could file a lawsuit under the Jones Act if seeking to hold an employer accountable. When a third party provides transportation services, that outside business may be liable for any incident that results in a worker’s injury or death. Unlike workers’ compensation coverage, which applies regardless of fault, Jones Act claims and third-party liability claims will typically necessitate someone establishing that negligence or failure to comply with safety regulations contributed to the incident.
Understanding how to respond to maritime incidents that has resulted in injury or death may help people demand justice after someone ends up injured or worse because of their high-risk maritime work environment.