Offshore injuries to Crane Operators
Common Causes of Offshore Crane Accidents & What to Do
As an offshore crane operator, your injury is usually caused in one of two ways. First,the crane itself may malfunction causing a very serious injury. Fortunately, this is unusual. We have handled cases involving crane collapses when welds failed which were devastating. If your injury involved the crane itself malfunctioning or worse yet, collapsing, you will want to get all the maintenance records and the original design and testing records. You will typically have a claim against your employer as well as third parties who built and/or should have properly maintained the crane. All cranes go through regular inspections and these are almost always done by a specialized third party company that your company brings out to the crane.
The other more common way that you as a crane operator may have been injured involves work or activities outside of the cranes. These injuries are usually caused by you trying to perform heavy manual labor such as rigging work or helping to move items on the deck. In this situation, you should always ask “why was I doing work that my co-workers may have been responsible for?” You may have jumped in because the roustabouts weren’t doing the work properly as trained or you were shorthanded. Then there are situations where your injury was caused by an unsafe personnel basket transfer or a dangerous condition on the rig such as a dangerous deck surface or dangerous stairs. These situations can easily give rise to a very valid claim for you to pursue to help get you back to where you should be.
Some common causes of crane accidents are:
- Improper loading
- Stress failure
- Metal fatigue
- Poor maintenance
- Rusting or deterioration of parts due to wet environment
- Operator error
Has Your Employer Done His Job in Louisiana Crane Safety?
If cranes are not properly maintained, inspected and used on offshore Louisiana rigs, horrible accidents and even fatalities can happen. Being struck by the load, getting caught inside the swing radius or operating with faulty assembly are common causes of accidents. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) provides a list of common safety rules that you, your employer and co-workers should follow when operating a crane offshore:
- Only qualified, trained personnel should operate a crane.
- A qualified person should inspect the crane each time it is used.
- The crane should be level and sitting on a stable surface.
- Block and secure sections before unlocking or removing pins.
- Barricade accessible areas and fully extend outriggers.
- Be sure all crane parts are at least ten feet away from any lines.
- Don’t wrap hoist lines around the load, and inspect all rigging.
- Use the load chart for the specific crane in use.
- Always raise the load a few inches then stop to be sure the balance and brakes are working before continuing.
- Never move a load over workers.
- Use the crane manufacturer’s instructions and follow signals.
What are the OSHA Requirements for Cranes?
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has established several regulations for the maritime industry. However, no workplace is 100% safe. Rules are sometimes ignored, causing serious injury to unsuspecting workers. If you’ve suffered an injury that you believe can be attributed to maritime safety violations consult with a New Orleans based Jones Act lawyer. You may have a legitimate case against your employer.
OSHA Maritime Industry Requirements
Temporary cranes and derricks – when a crane is placed on a vessel temporarily, its weight must be posted, exhaust gasses must be discharged in a direction away from the vessel and personnel, electrical equipment must have adequate guards, and there must be a nearby chart explaining the use of the crane and derrick.
- Workloads – workers can’t place heavier loads on cranes than the manufacturer recommends.
- Crane clearance – there must be a minimum of 3 feet of clearance.
- Fire safety – a fire extinguisher must be in the cab of each crane and derrick.
These are only a few of the OSHA regulations in place to protect workers in the maritime industry. As an injured victim, you should have a New Orleans Jones Act attorney review your case and, if appropriate, help you take action against your employer.
Returning to Work? Why You Should Wait
All offshore injury cases involve the very important issue of whether or not you should try to return to work, and if so, when. Read this article here for very important information about rushing to return to work. But as a crane operator, you are in a particularly tough position regarding returning to work. Your company will claim that your job as a crane operator is ‘light duty’ work, or at worst ‘medium duty’. Your company will argue that even after a serious injury and surgery, including back or neck surgery, you can still return to being a crane operator earning the same amount you earned at the time of your injury. I strongly disagree with this statement for several reasons.
As a crane operator you still have to be qualified to work offshore, which means passing serious physical testing including the Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET). Try doing this with a bad back. You also may have to transfer via personnel basket to and from the rig, or ride a vessel out to the rig.
Finally, while it is rare, there could be an evacuation situation offshore, leaving you at serious risk if you can’t drop from the rig in the escape boats. And while your company may claim that the crane work itself is light or medium duty work, most crane operators do have to get out of the crane to assist with some of the heavy manual labor from time to time, or instruct roustabouts on the proper way to rig items.
Beyond the above physical issues with returning to work offshore a crane operator, you also may face long periods of sitting in the crane for hours at a time. This activity could easily aggravate a lower back injury.
Apply for Long Term Disability
One final thought about your options as an injured offshore crane operator. You very well may have Long Term Disability available to you. Read this article to learn how LTD can help you greatly and why returning to work too quickly can seriously limit your future options if you have an LTD policy.
As an offshore crane operator you made very good money. I understand the desire to return to work as quickly as possible. But your job is still an offshore job, and as I have often heard it said, “There is no light duty job offshore.”
Call us to discuss your situation to see what options you have and the best steps to take to protect yourself.
When is it Time to Consider a Lawsuit?
Generally, the following questions should be asked before you consider a lawsuit:
- Can you prove that your company or co-employee was negligent?
- Were there unsafe or improper actions taken by your co-employee?
- Was there an issue with the safety of the workplace when your injury occurred?
- Was a piece of equipment unsafe to use?
- Were you or a fellow employee given unsafe or improper instructions?
- Could your employer say that you were partially to blame? (This does not mean you do not have a case; you can still receive a percentage of the damages.)
These general questions of law must be asked to establish if you have a case with any injury. But what are the special considerations for crane injuries?
First and foremost, your employer has a responsibility to be sure your crane work is safe. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) and The United States Coast Guard have the responsibility to regulate the use of cranes and other equipment used to move material on offshore rigs.
Their duty is to oversee the safety of the operation and maintenance of offshore cranes. Seamen working with this equipment rely on BOEMRE and the USCG to protect them. Offshore cranes should be inspected regularly and company owners are responsible for their safety.
Crane Accidents & Lawsuits in the News
Offshore Worker Injured in Crane Accident Files Jones Act Lawsuit
An offshore worker who was injured in a crane accident has filed a Jones Act lawsuit against the operators of the crane.
Gilbert Williams was employed by Ocean Chef as a catering hand on an offshore oil platform. On August 29, 2010, Williams was being transported in a crane when the crane slammed into the platform and the seaman was seriously injured. Seatrax of Louisiana Incorporated was the company operating the crane.
Mr. Williams is accusing the company of negligence and is seeking damages from Seatrax for his medical expenses; his physical, mental and emotional pain and suffering; loss of wages, fringe benefits and wage-earning capacity; physical disability; and punitive damages, interest and reimbursement for court costs.
The lawsuit was filed on Feb. 2 in federal court in New Orleans. A jury trial is requested.
Seaman Files Jones Act Claim For Offshore Crane Accident
An offshore roustabout is suing his employer for injuries he sustained when a crane operator dropped a steel plate on his foot.
The offshore crane accident occurred on October 8, 2010. Floyd Wigley was a roustabout and crewmember on ENSCO 68, a drilling rig owned by Ensco Offshore Company.
Wigley is accusing Ensco Offshore Company of negligence for failing to provide him with a safe place to work, for improper and unsafe method of operation, and for failing to adequately train, instruct, supervise or oversee crew members. He is also alleging that Ensco failed to provide sufficiently numerous or competent crew for the task being performed and failed to provide necessary personal safety equipment to crew members.
The Jones Act lawsuit also accuses Ensco Offshore Company of:
- Failure to provide proper binding, sling, or rigging methods
- Failure to properly position, lifted, move or handle materials
- Failure to properly position crane, failing to remedy unseaworthy conditions
- Failure to alleviate known dangers
Tugboat Captain Killed When Crane Hits Florida Avenue Bridge
Thursday morning an accident on the Industrial Canal left 46-year-old tugboat captain, Michael Collins, dead.
Around midnight, reported the Coast Guard, the tug Cory Michael was pushing a crane southbound on the Industrial Canal when it made the request for the Florida Avenue Bridge to be raised. The bridge was raised even higher than the requested height, and the crane arm hit the bridge structure then fell back, striking the wheelhouse of the tug and trapping and injuring Collins.
The Coast Guard New Orleans, Harbor Police, the New Orleans Fire Department, and EMS all responded. Port Spokesman, Matt Gresham, said that Collins was pronounced dead at 12:50am.
Jonathan Lally, a spokesman for the Coast Guard, stated that “[o]ther tow vessels were able to assist (the tugboat) and get it to the Port of New Orleans pier.”
He went on to explain that when the tugboat arrived at the pier, the NOFD freed the captain from the wheelhouse, and EMS pronounced him dead at the scene. At 1:25am, crews began the attempt to remove the crane. River traffic was temporarily halted, but the bridge was inspected and reopened to traffic around 4:30am.
Said Lally, “The US Coast Guard offers its condolences to the friends and family of this captain. When tragedy strikes, it affects a lot of people.”
The Coast Guard will conduct an investigation into the cause of the accident and subsequent fatality.