6 Ways to Prevent Man Overboard Accidents

December 7th, 2021|Maritime Injuries, Offshore Injury|

What is the one thing that all maritime workers should be provided by their employer before stepping foot onto a vessel?  A personal floatation device.

Maritime workers face many on-the-job hazards.  One of the most feared, dreaded, and dangerous hazards all maritime workers face is the possibility of falling overboard. Man overboard accidents are not a mere remote hazard maritime workers face.  Man overboard accidents occur more frequently than you might think.  Man overboard accidents are a leading cause of marine injuries and fatalities among maritime workers.

A maritime worker can fall overboard at any time a vessel is underway or at a dock.  Similarly, maritime workers working aboard platforms can fall overboard at any time.  Put simply, a maritime worker can fall overboard at any time, in any maritime work setting, regardless of where the work is taking place.

Maritime workers 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 of a vessel or platform
  • Bad weather
  • Rocky seas
  • Inadequate safety training

Once a maritime worker has fallen overboard, it is exceptionally important that they be rescued as soon as possible.  Every second a maritime worker remains overboard increases the risks of drowning, being lost at sea, hypothermia, exhaustion, and attacks by marine wildlife.  Serious injuries can result from a maritime worker falling overboard.

A maritime worker’s overall likelihood of surviving an overboard fall is substantially greater if a lifejacket or personal floatation device is provided to them and worn by the maritime worker.  Wearing a personal floatation device can save the life of a maritime worker.  It gives rescuers as much time as possible to mount a rescue and keeps the maritime worker afloat.  Data shows that in many overboard fatalities, there are no witnesses.  Oftentimes, the maritime worker is working alone on deck or the fall went unnoticed by crewmembers.

For that reason alone, maritime workers should be provided with personal floatation devices and a man overboard policy and plan should be implemented and enforced by all maritime employers.

There are many ways maritime employers can prevent overboard falls and rescue offshore workers that fall overboard.  Here are a few:

  1. Buddy System— Do not work on deck alone!
  2. Be Prepared— Always wear a personal floatation device when you are on deck!
  3. Sound the Alarm— In the event an offshore worker falls overboard, alert the Captain, crew, and all nearby vessels about any man overboard incident.
  4. Line of Sight— Maintain visual contact with the man overboard.
  5. Identify the Location— Throw life rings, buoys, or marker lights to mark the spot the offshore worker fell overboard and input the spot into your GPS.
  6. Do Not Leave Your Wingman— Stay in the location where the crewmember went into the water or next to the man overboard.  Maintain visual contact and a safe distance and deploy rescue devices.

If you are a maritime worker that has been injured as a result of falling overboard due to the negligence of another, it is important to know that you may have the right to pursue compensation for injuries you suffer as a result of falling overboard. You should contact a Houston maritime lawyer at Morrow & Sheppard LLP for a free, confidential consultation as soon as possible so they can help you get the maximum compensation you deserve.