Top-Rated Winch & Crane Accident Lawyers at Morrow & Sheppard LLP Have Handled A Variety Of Jones Act And Maritime Injury Claims In Texas And Louisiana
If you or a loved one was hurt by a crane or winch accident, the attorneys at Morrow & Sheppard LLP might be able to assist you in getting the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Our experienced lawyers have handled numerous crane and winch accident claims, including those involving deckhands and crewmen aboard ships, oil supply vessels, barges, and fishing boats.
The Jones Act protects crewmen on ships and barges. If they can show that their employer was negligent in causing their injuries or that the ship is not seaworthy, they are entitled to damages for pain and suffering, lost wages, retraining expenses, and medical bills. Improper training, unseaworthiness, or faulty equipment might swiftly lead to a life-altering accident when working with cranes and winches. For additional information about how we can assist you following a crane or winch accident, please contact us for a free, confidential consultation.
Winches and hoisting equipment are known causes of such injuries. The causes of winch injuries include:
- Personnel hoisting and transfer issues
- Spooling failures, jams, and tension issues
- Failure to conduct planned maintenance (“PM”) and issue specific maintenance
- Hands, arms, and other body parts being caught in moving equipment, which can result in loss of limbs and amputation
- Winch operator failure
- Failure to have a designated spotter to keep people out of the line of fire
- Failure to have warning signs, placards, and instructions
- Failure to provide proper training
- Failure to conduct required safety meetings
- Dropping suspended loads
How Can Winch And Crane Injuries Be Prevented
Our oilfield and offshore accident lawyers have encountered a number of winch and hoisting injuries. All of the winch accidents we have handled and reviewed could have been avoided if the companies involved had exercised reasonable care. Common failures and negligence which have caused winch and hoisting injuries in the oil and gas business include:
- Failure to utilize safer alternative work methods. As the International Association of Drilling Contractors (“IADC”) has recognized, oftentimes work can be performed in a safer manner without using winches and hoisting equipment. For example, in the personnel hoisting context, a land rig crew might wait until the derrick is laid down as opposed to performing work while the equipment is elevated. On an offshore rig or vessel, oftentimes equipment can be lowered for servicing as opposed to hoisting personnel to perform the work at height. Or in one case we handled, the crew of a seismic vessel unnecessarily used multiple winches to free a piece of equipment. They could have performed the operation without using more than one winch.
- Failure to properly plan the operation. Many times, winch and hoisting injuries result from proper planning. We have handled numerous cases where the company in charge – often company that crewed the vessel, a drilling contractor, or an oil company—failed to perform a job hazard analysis (“JHA”), job safety analysis (“JSA”), safe to perform (“STP”) meeting, pre-job checklist, or other job planning. In many cases our offshore injury lawyers have handled, if the companies had properly planned the job, there would not have been a winch or hoisting incident, and injury or death could have been avoided.
- Failure to use safety harnesses. In many cases, when working from height, a personnel hoisting harness should be required. A personnel hoisting harness may involve a full-body harness with a board or sling seat. The failure to require safety harnesses has caused injuries and deaths. The failure to use boatswains chair full harnesses with a triple action carabineer, or a bolt type shackle with a split pin or other retaining device, can also create a needless hazard.
- Failure to have task-specific winches and hoists. In some cases, workers may be put at risk where companies use multipurpose winches to lift personnel or freight, requiring manipulations and alterations for the job. Instead, safe companies may be required to use dedicated-use winches or dedicated personnel lifting winches.
- Failure to have engineering and mechanical controls. Sometimes companies perform hoist and winch operations using lifting equipment that does not have needed built-in hazard controls. These engineering solutions may include:
- load-lift mechanisms
- devices which control spooling speed
- automatic secondary brake systems
- emergency shutoff valves
- winches that do not allow the hoist drum to free wheel, as a line that can freely unspool can result in a load free falling and causing injury
- drum guards
- donut, guide, or other spooling mechanisms to ensure lines are wound evenly on the drum. Our offshore injury lawyers have handled a case in which our client was severely injured when the maritime crew performing the operation failed to have a winch guide, which resulted in the winch spools frequently jamming. One day, two winches jammed, which resulted in the vessel crew performing a haphazard line throwing operation to free the jams. This involved using various hooks and anchor points that created a needless risk of injury.
- Lines which are load tested and rated for the appropriate load size and weight
As the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has long maintained, the number one way to prevent hazards is through “engineering controls” which reduce the likelihood that potential human error could cause an incident. As OSHA has explained, “The first and best strategy is to control the hazard at its source. Engineering controls do this, unlike other controls that generally focus on the employee exposed to the hazard. The basic concept behind engineering controls is that, to the extent feasible, the work environment and the job itself should be designed to eliminate hazards or reduce exposure to hazards.”
- Failure to train workers. Many injuries have been caused by inattentive or improperly trained winch operators. Many winch operators are never even provided a copy of the winch operation manual provided by the manufacturer.
- Failure to adequately staff operations. Frequently, companies cut corners by failing to have a “spotter” or observer to make sure that personnel is not put in harm’s way during winch operations. This can result in serious injury or death.
Safety Rules For Winches, Cranes, And Lifting Equipment
Past incidents involving winches, hoists, personnel baskets, cranes, and other lifting equipment have caused many deaths and serious injuries. Common winch, hoist, crane, and lifting equipment injuries include neck injury requiring surgery, back injury requiring surgery, amputation (including loss of arms, legs, fingers and toes), crush injury, head injury, full paralysis and partial paralysis.
To prevent future injury, various professional organizations whose work involves oil and gas, construction, offshore, industrial, and maritime work have prepared safety rules and recommendations related to winches, hoists, cranes, personnel baskets, and other lifting equipment. These organizations include the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (“OSHA”), American Petroleum Institute (“API”), American National Standards Institute (“ANSI”), The Oil Companies International Marine Forum (“OCMIF), American Bureau of Shipping (“ABS”), Der Norske Veritas (“DNV”), American Society of Mechanical Engineers (“ASME”) and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (“BSEE”) and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (“BOEM”).
Safety rules that apply to winch operations and lifting operations may include the following:
This industry standard includes Section, 6.13 Personnel Hoisting Systems, which provides:
6.13.1 Equipment used for the lifting of personnel shall be fit-for-purpose, comply with local regulations, and operated in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions by trained and authorized personnel. See 4.4.5 for information regarding fall protection.
6.13.2 Before hoisting personnel, an assessment shall be done to determine if other non-hoisting methods are available.
6.13.3 Personnel shall not ride the elevators. Exceptions for extreme emergency conditions, when other alternatives have been exhausted, may be permitted when in the judgment of the supervisor; riding the elevators with appropriate personal fall protection equipment is necessary. In this instance, the elevators shall be empty of pipe and other equipment when personnel are riding.
6.13.4 Prior to utilizing equipment for personnel hoisting: a) an appropriate level of risk assessment for the lifting operations and surrounding conditions shall be conducted; b) operations that may interfere with personnel hoisting operations shall be suspended; c) hand signals, when used, should be reviewed and agreed upon.
6.13.5 When using winches for hoisting personnel: a) the controls shall be attended at all times while lifting, lowering, or stabilizing personnel; b) visual contact and communication shall be maintained between the winch operator and the rider; if the winch operator cannot maintain visual contact, a spotter shall be utilized; c) the manual brake, if applicable, should be set whenever the rider is not being hoisted; d) there shall not be a clutch mechanism or other means for the winch to freewheel; e) a load limiting mechanism, line speed limiter, automatic secondary brakes along with normal braking system, or controlled descent feature, or a combination thereof, shall be used (if applicable); f) a self-centering control lever, which when released, should return to the neutral position; g) an automatic brake should be installed that will engage when returning the control lever to the neutral position or upon loss of power; h) the winch should be equipped with an emergency shut-off valve within immediate reach of the winch operator; i) the winch should be equipped with a drum guard and a mechanism that ensures proper spooling
B30.7 includes provisions that apply to the construction, installation, operation, inspection, testing and maintenance of winches arranged for mounting on a foundation or other supporting structure for moving loads. Winches addressed in this volume are those typically used in industrial, construction and maritime applications. The requirements included in this volume apply to winches that are powered by internal combustion engines, electric motors, compressed air or hydraulics and that utilize drums and rope.
“Personnel have been transferred by crane between offshore vessels and offshore platforms for many years and there are well established guidelines and regulations for this activity, including the requirement to have cranes certified for personnel transfer. A similar level of guidance and regulation has not been available for transfers of personnel between vessels even though incidents have occurred . . .[t]he use of an onboard crane for the transfer of personnel has inherent risks. This paper highlights those risks and provides guidance that should be used in the risk assessment process to determine the method of transfer . . . [i]it is recommended that the transfer of personnel between vessels should be kept to an absolute minimum.”
[A] risk assessment should consider the prevailing circumstances and conditions and should compare the risks associated with any other available means of transfer.
“The three typical methods of transferring personnel between vessels are:
- Using a pilot ladder.
- Using an accommodation ladder (with or without a pilot ladder).
- Using a vessel’s crane and a PTB.
There are other ways to transfer personnel between vessels, e.g. by helicopter or heave-compensated gangways, which are addressed in other publication . . . the modes of failure [in crane operations] include:
- Catastrophic equipment failure (PTB, crane, pilot ladder or accommodation ladder).
- Exceeding equipment limitations
- Inadequate inspection, testing, maintenance or repair
- Inadequater training, planning, preparation or communication
- Vessel interference wit the transfer equipment
- Poor condition of personnel being transferred, e.g. fatigue, illness, injury, anzxiety, poor physical condition.
All involve the potential of injury or death as a result of:
- Falling from height.”
ASME B30 has a number of sub-standards applicable to various specific operations, including:
- 1 Jacks, Industrial Rollers, Air Casters, and Hydraulic Gantries
- 2 Overhead and Gantry Cranes (Top Running Bridge, Single or Multiple Girder, Top Running Trolley Hoist)
- 3 Tower Cranes
- 4 Portal And Pedestal Cranes
- 5 Mobile and Locomotive Cranes
- 6 Derricks
- 7 Winches
- 8 Floading Cranes and Floating Derricks
- 20 Below-the-Hook Lifting Devices
- 9 Slings
- 30 Ropes
- 10 Hooks
- 11 Monorails and Underhung Cranes
- 12 Handling Loads Suspended from Rotocraft
- 13 Storage/Retrieval (S/R) Machines and Associated Equipment
- 14 Side Boom Tractors
- 16 Overhead Underhung and Stationary Hoists
- 18 Stacker Cranes
- 19 Cableways
- 20 Below-the-Hook Lifting Devices
- 21 Lever Hoists
- 22 Articulating Boom Cranes
- 23 Personnel Lifting Systems
- 24 Container Cranes
- 26 Rigging Hardware
- 27 Material Placement Systems
- 28 Balance Lifting Units
- 30 Ropes (including steel wire rope and synthetic rope)
- General Industry (29 CFR 1910)
- 1910 Subpart N – Materials Handling and Storage
- 179, Overhead and gantry cranes.
- 180, Crawler locomotive and truck cranes.
- 181, Derricks.
- 183, Helicopters.
- 1910 Subpart S – Electrical
- 1910 Subpart S App A, Reference Documents
- Maritime (29 CFR 1915, 1917, 1918)
- 1917 Subpart D
- 71, Terminals handling intermodal containers or roll-on roll-off operations.
- 1917 Subpart F – Terminal Facilities
- 116, Elevators and escalators.
- 1918 Subpart F
- 51, General requirements (See also §1918.11 and appendix III of this part).
- 55, Cranes (See also §1918.11).
- 1918 Subpart G
- 62, Miscellaneous auxiliary gear.
- 66, Cranes and derricks other than vessel’s gear.
- 1918 Subpart H
- 81, Slinging.
- 85, Containerized cargo operations.
- 1918 Subpart I
- 98, Qualifications of machinery operators and supervisory training.
- 1918 Subpart J – Personal Protective Equipment
- 105, Other protective measures.
- Construction (29 CFR 1926)
- 1926 Subpart K – Electrical
- 406, Specific purpose equipment and installations.
- 1926 Subpart N
- 551, Helicopters.
- 552, Material hoists, personnel hoists, and elevators.
- 553, Base-mounted drum hoists.
- 554, Overhead hoists.
- 555, Conveyors.
- 556, Aerial lifts.
- 1926 Subpart V
- 958, Materials handling and storage. Regulations for crane and hoist signaling will be found in applicable American National Standards Institute standards.
- Federal Register Notices
- Cranes and Derricks in Construction: Underground Construction and Demolition. Final Rule 78:23837-23843, (April 23, 2013).
- Cranes and Derricks in Construction: Revising the Exemption for Digger Derricks. Final Rule 78:8985, (February 07, 2013).
- Revising the Exemption for Digger Derricks in the Cranes and Derricks in Construction Standard. Final Rule 77:67270-67276, (November 09, 2012).
- Cranes and Derricks in Construction; Final Rule. Final Rule 75:47905-48177, (August 09, 2010).
- Safety Standards for Cranes and Derricks. Proposed Rule 69:27870, (May 17, 2004).
- Safety Standards for Cranes and Derricks. Meeting 69:22748-22749, (April 27, 2004).
- Safety Standards for Cranes and Derricks. Meeting 69:12098, (March 15, 2004).
- Safety Standards for Cranes and Derricks. Notice 68:35172, (June 12, 2003).
- Safety Standards for Cranes and Derricks. Notice 68:9036-9037, (February 27, 2003).
Reported Winch And Hoisting Injury And Death Lawsuits
Past reported cases involving winch, hoisting, and maritime basket transfer injuries, including serious injury and death, include the following:
Jackson v. Lloyd Brasileirs Patrimonio Nacional, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division, 324 F.Supp. 556. A longshoreman claimed his injuries were the proximate result of the *558 ship’s winches being maintained in an unseaworthy condition, and of the negligence of the ship’s crew for failing to: (1) repair the winches; (2) order the stevedore to repair same; and (3) order the longshoremen to cease operating same until they were in a seaworthy condition. In particular, witnesses reported that neither of the winches on board the vessel were operating properly. Neither winch would respond accurately to its controls. Without a command from the winch operator, the winch would change speed and would raise or lower cargo at a fast unsafe speed. The winch to which the drum was rigged was the more unpredictable of the two winches, and therefore the more dangerous for the longshoremen to use in the cleanup operations. Witnesses stated that they had operated numerous winches of a similar type on the Galveston, Texas waterfront, and that these winches normally did not operate in such an erratic manner. Witnesses claimed these issues were reported to the shipowner. The court’s holdings included that (1) The vessel was unseaworthy because its winches were not adequate for their intended use. This unseaworthiness was a proximate cause of plaintiff’s injuries. Mahnich v. Southern Steam Ship Co., 321 U.S. 96, 104, 64 S.Ct. 455, 88 L.Ed. 561 (1943); The Osceola, 189 U.S. 158, 178, 23 S.Ct. 483, 47 L.Ed. 760 (1903); M. J. Norris, The Law of Maritime Personal Injuries, § 29, 36 at 57, 70-73 (2nd Ed. 1966); (2) The shipowner— through the acts of its agents— negligently breached its duty to provide plaintiff a safe place to work by reason of its agents’ failure: (a) to repair the ship’s winches; (b) to order the stevedore to repair the winches; and (c) to order the stevedore or its employees to cease using the winches once its agents ascertained they were unseaworthy. C. O. Bue, Jr., Admiralty Law in the Fifth Circuit— A Compendium for Practitioners, 4 Hou.L.Rev. 347, 387 (1966). This negligence was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.
Owner of the M/V W.T. HOGG, D. Louisiana, 2021 WL 5919516. Two deckhands were injured while operating a winch system on the HOGG when a steel anchor cable came out of a roller on top of an A-frame mounted on the HOGG, slid down the A-frame, and allegedly struck Meza and Virgil4 and caused them to sustain serious injuries.
Matter of Savage Inland Marine, LLC; E.D. Texas, Beaumont Division, 539 F.Supp.3d 629. Jones Act seaman was injured during a multi-vessel fleeting operation when a mooring line released from a deck fixture called an open chock. The captain failed to conduct a job safety analysis even though a winch was being used, and such use required a job safety analysis per the company’s policies. The court found the vessel operator negligent because it (1) did not train its deckhands on the use of open chocks, (2) was negligent in assigning Wood to perform a task that Wood was not adequately trained to perform, and (3) failed to conduct a proper safety meeting, because “[h]ad there been a proper pre-voyage safety meeting, the personnel involved in the maneuver would have discussed in detail how to safely rig the fleet to the barge and minimize the associated risks, and would likely have been able to avoid incident.”
Johnston v. Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling, Inc.,D. Louisiana, 2019 WL 2113933. Plaintiff was injured aboard offshore drilling rig while installing PS-30s, which are slips to hold a drill pipe. The plaintiff alleged that he connected the right door to a “tugger,” which is a hydraulic winch, when another worker engaged the tugger, putting tension on the cable. When the tension on the cable was released, it struck the plaintiff in the face and caused him injuries.
In re Lewis Casing Crews, Inc., Texas Appeals Court – Eastland, 2014 WL 3398170. A member of a slickline crew on a land drilling rig sued the drilling contractor and well operator (oil company) for negligence and gross negligence which a winch line with an attached lifting hook was dropped or fell off the rig and struck him.
Scindia Steam Nav. Co., Ltd. v. De Los Santos, United States Supreme Court, 451 U.S. 156. Held the law imposes liability upon a vessel owner if the owner has “actual knowledge both of a hazardous condition and that the stevedore, in the exercise of ‘obviously improvident’ judgment, intends to continue work in spite of that condition.” In that case, both the vessel and the stevedore knew that a winch used in the loading operations had malfunctioned on and off for two days prior to the longshoreman’s injury. The vessel further knew that the stevedore intended to use, and did use, the defective winch even though its braking mechanism was faulty. The vessel did not intervene to stop operations or to fix the winch. On one of the loads, the winch failed, causing sacks of wheat to fall on and injure the longshoreman. The Supreme Court held that if the stevedore’s judgment was obviously improvident to the vessel, and the vessel, if it knew of the defect, should have realized that the condition presented an unreasonable risk, then the vessel had a duty to intervene to stop the loading operations and to fix the winch.
Murdick v. Cross Equipment Ltd., Fifth Circuit & Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division, 250 Fed.Appx. 54. An Oil Spill Technician (“OST”) aboard Barge 141 in Nikiski Bay, Alaska was struck in the head and killed by a steel anchor cable that came off of the winch, manufactured by Cross Equipment, Ltd. (“Cross” or “Defendant”), that he was using to wind the cable and raise the anchor.
Coleman v. Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Co., Fifth Circuit and Western District of Louisiana, 997 F.2d 880. Court held jury could have properly found injuries aboard offshore drilling platform were caused by “ruinous” condition of drilling winch wheel.
Revel v American Export Lines, Inc., Virginia, and Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, 266 F2d 82. A winch on a ship, which was known to the stevedoring company employed to load and unload the ship to be defective, was found to constitute an unseaworthy condition of the vessel or its equipment, it was held that the shipowner was liable for injuries to a longshoreman caused by such unseaworthiness.
Sanchez v. Lubeck Linie A. G., 318 F. Supp. 821, 1971 A.M.C. 687 (S.D. N.Y. 1970). Plaintiff who was struck by pontoon lowered onto hatch openings without using required an available tag lines (ropes) requested by winchman.
Hernandez v. M/V Rajaan, 841 F.2d 582 (Fifth Circuit), vessel owner held liable to a longshoreman injured and partially paralyzed while loading palletized bags of rice into the vessel’s cargo hold. One of the hydraulic winches used to lower the pallets of rice malfunctioned and a 110–pound sack of rice fell onto the plaintiff. As a result, he was permanently paralyzed from the chest down and retained only limited use of his arms.
Alice Leasing Corp. v. Castillo, 53 S.W.3d 455 (San Antonio Court of Appeals). Survivors of trucker brought action against trucking business when trucker was killed in the course and scope of his employment as a truck driver. On the day of the accident, the plaintiffs’ decedent and a coworker were dispatched with a large gin pole truck, known as Truck 82, to the Alice Police Department to move a large generator. The plaintiffs’ decedent was the driver and the other man was the swamper. The plaintiffs’ decedent was operating the winch controls to begin the process of “poling up” or raising the gin poles into position. The plaintiffs’ decedent was inadequately trained to operate the gin pole truck. The equipment was improperly rigged. Tension in the cables built up to the point that they snapped, causing the block in the bed of the trailer to break. A piece of the block assembly flew through the air and struck the plaintiffs’ decedent in the head as he looked through the rear window of the cab of the truck. He died instantly. The plaintiffs won a jury verdict against the employer for the equivalent of a multimillion dollar sum.
Richardson v. Seacor Lifeboats, E.D. Louisiana, 2015 WL 2193907. Plaintiff injured in basket transfer case. Expert opined that (1) the crane operator failed to safely operate the crane and lower the personnel basket at a proper speed; (2) It appears that SEACOR failed to ensure its crane operator operated the crane safely; (3) the SEACOR crane operator failed to comply with API 2D–1984 section 2.4.3e and 46 CFR 109.521 (“API violations”); (4) SEACOR failed to ensure safe operations on its vessel; and (5)the above listed unreasonably dangerous conditions, management decisions, failures, deficiencies and associated negligent acts of commission or omission, on the part of SEACOR, related to the issues discussed in this report, were to a reasonable degree of engineering probability more than likely producing and proximate causes of the incident and related injuries that occurred to the plaintiff.
Alford v. Noble Drilling (U.S.), LLC, Eastern District of Louisiana, 2012 WL 2236741. Jones Act seaman injured in basket transfer case. The plaintiff’s expert opined that (1) a contributing cause of the accident was the failure of the crane operator to hold the personnel net above the deck of the vessel for a sufficient amount of time for the passengers to reposition themselves on the personnel net and to allow the deckhand to grab the tagline and position himself to assist the landing of the personnel net; (2) a contributing cause of his accident was the Mure of Noble Drilling to affix the tagline to the center of the personnel net; and (3) the direct cause of Mr. Alford’s accident was the failure of the deckhand to recognize that the tagline was affixed to the outside ring of the personnel net and not to aggressively pull on the tagline causing it to turn or jerk the personnel net.
Morrow & Sheppard Have Helped Hundreds Of Workers And Family Members Affected By Serious Work Injuries And Maritime Injuries
The winch & crane accident lawyers at Morrow & Sheppard LLP have handled hundreds of offshore injury cases in Texas and Louisiana. These cases have involved things like winches, basket transfer failures, equipment malfunctions, line handling failures, fires, explosions, and unseaworthy vessels. Our firm has recovered millions of dollars for clients who have been maimed, burned, sustained serious neck and back injuries requiring fusion and other surgeries, suffered head injuries, and been fully paralyzed or partially paralyzed due to work-related injuries and maritime injures. We have represented many families in wrongful death cases seeking answers when a loved one has died on the job.
If you or a loved one has been injured while working on a vessel, contact a top-rated winch & crane accident attorney at Morrow & Sheppard LLP. Our experienced lawyers will review your case and determine whether they believe you have grounds for filing a suit against an at-fault party. We offer free consultations to all of our clients who are interested in taking legal action.