Preventing dry dock accidents is a significant challenge, in large part because dry docks are especially dangerous workplaces. A dry dock is a specialized maintenance and support facility for seafaring vessels. There are certain repairs and maintenance procedures that cannot be performed in water, so dry docks are designed to give workers the ability to access ships on land.
Dry docks are also known as graving docks. A vessel is maneuvered into a rectangular enclosure, the water is pumped out, and the ship rests on dry land, on special supports designed not to damage the hull. But floating dry docks are also common. These dry docks are maneuvered beneath a ship as it floats, slowly raising it onto a pontoon system.
Drydock Number One, Norfolk Naval Shipyard is the oldest operational drydock facility in the United States. Located in Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia, it was put into service in 1834, and has been in service since then.
Both graving and floating dry docks are necessary to maintain vessels and, thus, maritime operations. But they can be especially hazardous environments, and dry dock accidents are not uncommon.
Common Types of Dry Dock Accidents
A dry dock combines all of the tasks of shipbuilding, construction, and naval facilities. As such, most dry docks are hazardous work environments, and preventing accidents and injuries requires significant effort, training, and professionalism. Even still, dry dock accidents can and do occur. Some of the most common types of dry dock accidents include:
- Flooding – Graving docks are constructed below the waterline, so they require flood gates in order to expel water and create a dry work area for ships. When floodgates malfunction or are not properly maintained, flooding can quickly become a hazard. Flooding accidents can result in mild to life-threatening injuries depending on the severity of the flood, the size of the dry dock, and the number of workers in harm’s way.
- Hazardous materials – Many maintenance and repair tasks require workers to be confined in enclosed spaces while simultaneously working with hazardous materials, such as fuel waste or vapors. This can lead to various accidental conditions, including fires or exposure. In some cases, workers can even suffer from hypoxia (lack of oxygen) if vapors are strong enough.
- Machinery accidents – Dry docks employ a vast array of heavy machinery on a daily basis. Any one of these heavy machines can cause accidents on site, which can then cause injury. Cranes are commonly used in dry dock environments and come with their own hazards.
- Slipping vessel – Vessels are usually secured quite reliably in dry dock environments. But any shift or slipping of a ship can cause a significant accident, resulting in crushing or other various injuries. When a vessel is not properly secured, or slips, the results damage can be catastrophic.
- Slipping and falling – Dry docks, despite their name, tend to be relatively wet environments. Water or fuel spilled on concrete can be slippery, and falls in dry dock environment can result in a variety of injuries, including traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
Common Dry Dock Injuries
Accidents on either floating or graving dry docks can cause substantial and life-threatening injuries. The highly skilled attorneys at Montagna Maritime Law have worked with many shore workers who have sustained injuries while working on dry docks. Some of the most common injuries from dry dock accidents include:
- Crushing injuries from heavy machinery
- Loss of limb
- Broken bones
- Traumatic brain injury
- Burns or smoke inhalation
- Injuries suffered from exposure to hazardous materials
When injuries occur due to dry dock accidents, it is essential that all workers have up-to-date and required safety training in order to mitigate damage and harm as much as possible. Dry docks can be exceptionally hazardous working environments, so all safety procedures are incredibly important to follow.
Knowing Your Legal Rights After a Dry Dock Accident
If you’ve been injured in a dry dock accident, your rights might be difficult to interpret. Dry docks can be situated on the shore, though floating dry docks are sometimes operated in the water.
It’s important to remember that shoremen working on dry docks are often covered under maritime law. You will need an experienced and knowledgeable maritime attorney to help you navigate the complicated legal process of protecting your rights and seeking damages.
The attorneys at Montagna Law Firm collectively have over 50 years of experience helping dry dock workers understand their rights in the event of an accident. Let our attorneys take care of the legal details and get you the compensation you are entitled to so you can focus on your health and recovery.
Talk to an Experienced Dry Dock Accident Attorney
Suffering an injury while at work can be a stressful, confusing, and traumatic experience for anyone. Your employer might not be making the effort you expect to ensure your well-being. Often times, employers and insurers use underhanded techniques to get dry dock workers to settle their cases quickly. That’s why it’s important you speak to a knowledgeable dry dock accident attorney who can advise you of your rights under maritime law.
If you’ve been injured on the East Coast, call the skilled attorneys at Montagna Maritime Law to talk about your case. Our attorneys offer a high level of personal attention to each and every client, combined with extensive experience in the litigation of general maritime law. As an injured dry dock worker who depends on your physical ability for your livelihood, it’s critical that you get the maximum compensation and benefits you’re entitled to under maritime laws for you, your family, and your health.