Shipyards are, essentially, a construction, maintenance, and repair facility for seagoing vessels. As a result, a shipyard will typically have substantial construction capabilities and responsibilities. Shipyard accidents are tragically common. Part of the blame for that can be placed on the hazardous scope of work that shipyard workers are tasked with completing.

Assembly and repair of seagoing vessels is enormously complex. Shipyard construction and maintenance facilities are replete with heavy machinery and construction equipment tailored to take on the job of building, maintaining, repairing, and salvaging ships of various sizes.

While modern construction techniques have improved safety significantly, shipyards still represent a hazardous and challenging workplace. That’s why safety must be a number one priority at all shipyards: workers must be trained, safety policies must be established and enforced, and leadership must be invested in safety best practices. Unfortunately, at Montagna Maritime Law, we have seen too many workers injured in shipyard accidents that could have been avoided.

Common Shipyard Accidents

Shipyard accidents are usually related to the constant construction and salvage that takes place at these facilities. Shipyards are necessary for the continuing function of maritime commerce, so safety is a high priority. But accidents happen. Some of the most common causes of shipyard accidents include:

  • Shipyard AccidentsMechanical accidents – There is no shortage of heavy machinery at shipyards. From cranes to specialized shipbreaking machines and fabricators, heavy machinery is always present. Shipyard accidents involving this machinery can lead to a wide variety of injuries. Crane accidents, in particular, can be especially dangerous, resulting in falling or unsecured debris.
  • Fire and heat – Welding is one of the most prominent activities in a shipyard and is commonly used to secure ship segments to one another (or to ensure fasteners are secured to the hull). Because of the prominence of welding activities, shipyard accidents related to heat and fire are unfortunately common.
  • Hazardous materials – Exposure to hazardous materials can create both short term and long term injuries. These hazardous materials are sometimes required for ship construction or maintenance, so proper safety protocols should always be followed. Shipyard accidents involving hazardous materials will typically require specialized responses, for which workers should be adequately trained.
  • Falls – Working on big ships is often accomplished using ladders and scaffolding. Shipyard accidents involving this scaffolding can result in falls and debris-related injuries. In some cases, accidents occur when workers slip from their posts on scaffolding. In other cases, accidents occur when the scaffolding or ladder collapses for other reasons.
  • Water-related accidents – Shipyards are almost always located near the water, usually a port or maritime terminal of their own. As such, accidental drowning or water-related shipyard accidents do sometimes occur. In certain environments, hypothermia is also a significant concern when workers fall into icy waters.

Common Types of Shipyard Injuries

Even minor injuries can quickly escalate if they are not treated properly or lead to further complications. For example, an untreated laceration that becomes infected can cause further injury or harm. Some of the most common injuries suffered in shipyard accidents include:

  • Traumatic brain injury – TBI due to falling debris or to slips and falls is a commonly treated injury.
  • Burns – Welders who are exposed to excessively hot materials or who encounter fires often must grapple with burns and other injuries.
  • Broken bones – Falls from height can result in broken bones and other injuries, including TBI.
  • Crushing injuries – Shipyard workers are often limited to confined spaces, and when those confined spaces get even smaller due to a shift, injury can result.
  • Mechanical injuries – Malfunctioning mechanisms can cause crushing, tearing, or severing injuries.
  • Hypothermia – When shipyard workers are exposed to open water, hypothermia can set in quickly.
  • Hypoxia – Shipyard workers are often confined to a small space, in which oxygen can quickly become in short supply.

If you’ve been injured in a shipyard accident, it’s important that you consult with maritime attorney, such as the team at Montagna Maritime Law, so you can understand your rights and entitlements to damages under maritime law.

Knowing Your Legal Rights After Shipyard Accidents

Because a shipyard is technically located on shore, you might not think you qualify for protections under maritime law. But longshoremen are often covered by provisions and articles of maritime law. If you’re injured in a shipyard accident, you may also be covered by protections under the Jones Act and Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.

In these cases, injured shipyard workers are often entitled to compensation. If the initial accident was caused by negligence, incomplete training, out of date tools, or other malfeasance, you may be entitled to more.

That’s why we encourage you to get in touch if you’ve been injured in a shipyard accident. You want an experienced attorney who will guide you through the legal process and fight aggressively for your rights.