Maritime workers face many on-the-job hazards; one of the most dreaded and dangerous is the possibility of falling overboard. Man overboard (MOB) accidents occur more frequently than you might think, and are a leading cause of marine injuries and fatalities, not only among maritime workers, but also passengers aboard cruise ships and ferries.
How Do Man Overboard Accidents Happen
A “man overboard” emergency can arise at any time, in any maritime work setting — the docks, a vessel in port, a vessel at sea, and particularly, on an offshore drilling rig. A person can fall overboard for a number of reasons, including:
- Slippery decks
- Trip hazards
- Poor visibility
- Getting struck by an object
- Inadequate safety measures
- Poor maintenance
- Bad weather
- Extreme wave swells
- Inadequate safety training
- Human error
Once a person’s fallen overboard, it’s important that they be rescued as soon as possible. The risks of drowning, hypothermia, exhaustion, and attacks by hostile marine life, as well as the chances of being lost at sea, increase the longer a person is in the water. Bone fractures, spinal injuries, brain injuries, and other trauma injuries can result if the person falls overboard onto a dock or other solid surface, or falls overboard as a result of a vessel running aground.
Immediate Action is Needed in a Man Overboard Emergency
To prevent tragedy, here are some of the actions that need to be taken immediately after a person has fallen overboard:
- The first thing to do is raise awareness of the emergency. The person who sees the accident must raise the alarm by shouting “Man overboard!” loud and clear enough to alert the rest of the crew. They should remain in place in order to maintain continuous visual contact with the victim.
- If the victim is close enough, flotation equipment should be thrown in their direction. A GPS marker should be released to ensure the vessel is able to track the location of the MOB in the dark or other situations where visibility is poor.
- Once the bridge crew becomes aware of the emergency, they’ll sound three blasts on the ship’s whistle (the letter O in morse code) the international signal for a man overboard. A MOB alarm will also be sounded over the ship’s intercom system to alert the crew. The “O” flag is hoisted and a mayday signal is transmitted, alerting all ships in the area that there’s a MOB emergency.
- There are four types of maneuvers a Captain can order to get the vessel back to the spot where the person fell overboard: the Williamson turn, the Anderson turn, the Scharnov turn, and the Loren turn.
- Depending on the circumstances, a lifeline or man overboard pole may be extended to recover the person who fell overboard. If the person is injured or unconscious, the vessel will dispatch a dinghy to recover them. The crew should be prepared to render whatever aid is necessary.
To reduce MOB incidents, maritime employers need to maintain a safe working environment, ensure workers have the proper training to respond to a MOB emergency, and specialized MOB rescue equipment is on hand.
Victim of a MOB Accident? Speak to the Lambert Firm
Were you injured in a MOB accident that resulted from unsafe conditions on the docks, aboard a vessel, or on an offshore drilling platform? Did a family member die as a result of a similar accident?
The Jones Act, DOSHA, and other maritime laws give you the right to seek compensation for the losses you’ve suffered as a result of a MOB accident. The Lambert Firm is here to protect your rights and fight to get you the total compensation you deserve for your damages.
The Lambert Firm has been protecting the rights of maritime workers all over the U.S. since the 1970s. Contact The Lambert Firm online or give us a call at 800-521-1750 to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation with one of our maritime attorneys to discuss your case.