A ship’s steward department is responsible for the essential tasks of cooking and cleaning aboard the vessel. Stewards and cooks prepare meals, clean up the galley, manage trash, take on food stuffs, and conduct housekeeping in the living spaces aboard a ship. The most senior member of the department is the Chief Cook or Chief Steward. On larger vessels, there may also be cooks and assistant cooks or assistant stewards.
Since the cook and steward primarily operate in the galley, that’s where they face the most risk of injury. All too frequently, cooks and stewards have to contend with job-specific hazards, such as:
Inadequate safety equipment
Defective galley equipment
Slips and falls in galley and food storage spaces
Chipping ice from freezers
Electrical shock from galley appliances
Burns from galley equipment
Lacerations from cooking utensils
Frostbite from freezers
Falling equipment and stores
Back injuries from lifting heavy containers
Repetitive use injuries
In addition to galley, freezer, and storage specific hazards, cooks and stewards continue to face many of the same perils of the sea as other merchant mariners. These may include gangway incidents, shifting cargo, collisions, allisions, groundings, fires, hypothermia, drowning, and falling overboard.
While stewards and cooks do not navigate the ship or manage its cargo, they still contribute a crucial function board the ship. Consequently, they are usually granted seaman status under the Jones Act and general maritime law. This may open the door to benefits and compensation for shipboard injuries.
Injured cooks and stewards may be able to claim maintenance and cure benefits regardless of the vessel owner and maritime employer’s actual fault in causing the injury. Maintenance is a daily stipend for injured mariners to help pay for expenses. Cure covers all medical expenses resulting from the injury on the job. These benefits will run until the steward’s doctor finds that he or she has recovered.
If there was improper equipment, hazardous defects, or negligence associated with the cook or steward’s injuries, they may also have a clam for Jones Act negligence or unseaworthiness under maritime law. These causes of action require a finding of fault against the defendant in order for there to be compensation.
The Jones Act has been protecting seamen and granting them the right to a safe place to work for over 100 years. Among the earliest Jones Act cases determined that cooks and stewards were entitled to the same rights, benefits, and causes of action as the other mariners serving a vessel. If you were hurt on the job in the Steward’s Department, call an experienced maritime lawyer about your potential claim. You may have rights to compensation under fault-based or no-fault-based legal schemes that are ancient and confusing. Don’t miss out on money damages that you may have been owed by not asking questions. Maritime employers know the rules and deal with them regularly. Many commercial seamen can go most of their careers without having to make a claim. So, when the time comes, they don’t know what to do. Mariner Law, PLLC is here to assist. An experienced maritime attorney can help you investigate the facts and evaluate the strength of your claim. It all starts with a free telephone consultation. Call a Jones Act lawyer now: (253) 600-2531. The firm proudly serves mariner clients in Washington, Oregon, New York, Connecticut, Alaska, and nationwide.