Fall-related incidents are a big deal. In fact, falls are the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in the United States. You may be surprised to learn that in 2019, 880 workers died in fall accidents—146 of those deaths were falls on the same level. So, what are slip, trip, and fall accidents?
Slips — loss of balance caused by too little friction between footwear and flooring
Trips — loss of balance caused by the foot striking an object
Falls — loss of balance caused by moving too far off the center of gravity
The risks associated with slip, trip and fall injuries are only exaggerated in the maritime industry. Vessel crewmembers work around heavy equipment and machinery, often on surfaces that are slick with condensation, ocean spray, ice, or mechanical fluids. This confounded by the motion of a moving ship.
Slip injuries arise from common causes. Water, ice, and snow on surfaces for example. Other causes include failing to clean up spills, grease, and fluids. The presence of non-skid surfaces, or lack thereof, is another key factor.
Tripping injuries may result from:
Improperly carrying loads
Poorly lit areas
Cluttered walking spaces
Dangerously arranged furniture in high traffic areas
Lack of safety equipment
Failure to warn
Fall injuries are some of the most prevalent in the world, but also some of the most avoidable. Causes include defective stairs and handrails, cluttered floors, dim lighting, and improper shoes.
Shipboard slip, trip, and fall hazards result in a wide range of injuries:
These potential risks and injuries can manifest throughout the maritime industry on docks, piers, ship decks, in vessel holds, down narrow corridors, and in engine rooms. Slip/fall and trip/fall injuries happen on all kinds of vessels, including commercial fishing vessels, cruise ships, ferries, dinner boats, container ships, dry bulk ships, tankers, tugs, barges, car carriers, yachts, and recreational cruisers.
Slip and fall or trip and fall injuries on a vessel may entitle the victim to a claim for compensation under maritime law. For passengers and other non-crewmembers, that claim is likely under negligence if it can be established that a vessel owner, operator, or crewmember acted without sufficient care under the circumstances.
The Jones Act was passed decades ago to protect commercial mariners, known as seamen, from injuries such as slips, trip, and falls. The Jones Act requires maritime employers to provide maritime employees with a safe workplace. This too is a negligence cause of action, known as Jones Act negligence. Seamen may also have a cause of action for unseaworthiness if the condition that caused the slipping, tripping, or falling rendered the vessel or its appurtenances unfit for duty.
Just because slip, trip, and fall scenarios are common does not make them okay. They are often the result of negligence and the injuries suffered can be life changing (if not life-ending). Get help from a seasoned admiralty attorney to investigate the facts of your injury and evaluate your claim. Maritime law is as unique as the maritime industry. Mariner Law, PLLC only represents injured mariners. Call today for a free consultation with a Jones Act attorney: (253) 600-2531. The firm proudly serves mariner clients in Washington, Oregon, New York, Connecticut, Alaska, and nationwide.