There are a lot of cranes in the maritime industry. They come in all shapes and sizes to lift heavy loads, provisions, cargo, equipment, materials, and even people. Cranes are on large ships, barges, tugs, and fishing vessels. These complex machines are also ashore at terminals and piers. Common types are:
Bulk handling cranes
These cranes operate loading ships, moving containers, shifting dry bulk commodities, and perform marine construction. Regardless of the job it is doing, the crane itself often consists of the same components:
Hook — the connection point between the crane and the load
Hoist — the lifting mechanism consisting of the winch, crank, drum, and wire
Boom — the steel arm extending outward to move the load
Given their prevalence throughout the maritime industry, it’s no surprise that winches and cranes are responsible for many maritime injuries. Good crane practices and procedures should include preventative maintenance and repairs to ensure the crane’s ability to lift at a proper speed, hold the intended load, and lower at a controlled speed. They must be operated by properly trained personnel.
Cranes can fail in a number of ways. They can:
Overturn due to improper loading or operation
Suffer boom/outrigger failure or collapse
Unintentionally contact other structure or wire (like electrical wires)
Most often, crane accidents are the result of negligence. Negligence can arise from how the crane is operated through user error, bad communication, lack of a spotter, inadequate safety equipment, improper loading, and insufficient manning. Crane equipment itself can also break, like bridles, ropes, wires, winches, drums, booms, rigging, shackles, slings, and rigging.
When cranes and winches malfunction or are improperly operated, serious injures can result. Longshoremen and crewmembers can be crushed by cargo, struck by crane equipment, suffer burns from explosions, or even fall from heights. Other common injuries may include:
Cranes are seldom used on ships underway, making crane-related injuries more likely alongside the dock and onshore. The compensation available to victims will depend on the location of the incident and the status of the employee.
Most cranes accidents involve longshoremen, harbor workers, stevedores, and ship repairmen. Oftentimes, these employees will qualify for benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). While the LHWCA does not usually allow longshoremen to sue their employer for workplace injuries, there may be exceptions for employer/shipowner negligence. The LHWCA also allows longshoremen to make negligence claims against third parties such as vessel owners, equipment manufacturers, and other negligent parties. Damages in litigation may include medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Deckhands, able seamen, ordinary seamen, stewards, ship officers, and other vessel crewmembers qualifying as seamen may also be entitled to maritime benefits after being injured by a crane while in service of a vessel. Seamen can claim maintenance and cure until they reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). Maintenance can help pay for a recovering mariner’s living expenses while cure can cover medical expenses for treatment of the shipboard injuries. Maintenance and cure are owed regardless of the vessel owner’s fault in causing the crane-related injury. The injured seafarer may also be entitled to fault-based remedies under the Jones Act and maritime law. The Jones Act requires maritime employers to provide seamen a safe place to work. If they fail to do so, they may be liable for negligence. Vessel owners can also be liable for unseaworthy conditions aboard their vessels (conditions that are not fit for their intended purpose).
Crane accidents can result in tragedy. If you or a loved one was injured or even killed by a crane, maritime law may apply to your advantage. Being hurt on the job can cause you to ask all kinds of important questions. How can I afford medical treatment? How do I pay my bills while I’m injured? Am I getting everything I’m entitled to? These are the questions a seasoned maritime lawyer can help you answer after a crane injury. Call Mariner Law, PLLC for a free consultation with a Jones Act lawyer today: (253) 600-2531. The firm proudly serves mariner clients in Washington, Oregon, New York, Connecticut, Alaska, and nationwide.