Maritime accidents injure and kill workers every year and cause millions of dollars in damages to vessels, dock facilities and offshore platforms. Research into the causes of these accidents has revealed that an alarming number of these accidents were the result of errors in judgement by maritime workers suffering from extreme fatigue.
The maritime industry is a 24/7 business; irregular and extended shifts are common for maritime workers. It’s not unusual for seamen and other offshore workers to be on call 24 hours a day or work shifts that last 12 hours or longer. These unusual and extended work hours often mean that maritime workers don’t get the rest and sleep their minds and bodies need. The result is worker fatigue. Fatigue can impair a person’s cognitive skills, slowing down their reaction times, making it difficult to concentrate, and adversely affect decision making skills — thereby increasing the likelihood of a serious accident.
Symptoms of Fatigue
Fatigue can result from prolonged mental or physical work, periods of anxiety, exposure to a harsh environment and lack of sleep. If a fatigued worker fails to get the rest they need, their condition can worsen until it becomes debilitating. The mental and physical symptoms of fatigue vary, depending on the person’s degree of overexertion. These symptoms can include:
- Reduced alertness, lack of concentration and memory
- Lack of motivation
- Increased vulnerability to illness
- Loss of appetite and digestive problems
Over time, chronic fatigue can cause significant damage to a person’s physical, emotional and psychological health.
Ways to Combat Fatigue among Maritime Workers
Sometimes it is necessary for maritime workers to work long or irregular shifts. However, there are steps ship owners and managers can take to prevent accidents caused by worker fatigue:
- Managers and supervisors need to be alert to the signs of fatigue among workers.
- Ensure there is an adequate number of crewmembers to perform a task.
- Increase employee awareness about the risks of working while fatigued.
- When possible, managers should try and limit the use of extended shifts. If workers are required to work longer than eight hours, they should receive additional break periods.
- Tasks that require heavy physical labor or intense concentration should be performed as close to the beginning of a shift as possible.
- Ensure employees have adequate time for rest and recovery between shifts.
- Schedule regular and frequent breaks throughout the work shift.
There is a growing body of data that shows maritime accidents occur more often when workers are fatigued. Sleep — like air, food and water — is a basic human need. A lack of sleep can negatively impact a maritime worker’s performance, creating a safety hazard for the ship.
If you have been injured because of a ship grounding, collision or other mishap caused by an exhausted and fatigued crew member or worker, you have a right to seek compensation for the damages caused by these injuries.
Was Workplace Fatigue the Cause of Your Maritime Work Injuries?
Proving fatigue as the cause of an accident can be a challenging task – one the maritime injury attorneys at the Lambert Firm are more than able to handle. We have the skills and resources to gather the evidence – company records, expert testimony, and eyewitness accounts – that will prove who is responsible for your injuries. And we have the expertise to effectively utilize this information to obtain the compensation you deserve for your pain, suffering and economic losses.
The Lambert Firm has been helping injured maritime workers for over 40 years. If you were injured in a maritime accident that was caused by the negligence of a ship’s owner or crew, contact The Lambert Firm to schedule a free consultation with one of our maritime accident lawyers. There are no upfront charges if we accept your case, and you only pay us when we’ve won your case.