Dock workers have a dangerous job, with significant potential for injury on a daily basis. When a dockworker gets hurt on-the-job, he may not necessarily obtain damages by making a claim for traditional workers' compensation benefits, as most employees will do if they suffer on-the-job injuries. There are special rules related to dockworker injuries, including the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act which can allow injured dock workers to obtain benefits and damages.
Dock workers need to understand their rights and know when, and how, they can pursue a claim for compensation for injuries sustained working the docks.
Dock workers can face injury from many different sources. For example:
- Dock workers could be injured if a cargo ship or other vessel crashes into the dock where they are working. Just recently, WXYZ reported on a large cruise ship which struck a crowded San Diego pier, causing injury to seven people. While this sightseeing vessel hit a walkway in a tourist area after the 150-foot long boat experienced a mechanical malfunction causing a gear shift to stick, there is also a significant risk that large boats could crash into piers where work is performed and where dockworkers are doing their jobs.
- Workers could fall into confined spaces while performing their work. SF Examiner reported on an incident in California in which a worker fell into a confined space on a U.S. naval ship which was in dry dock. The worker was not a naval employee, but was preforming work on a naval ship at the time when he lost his footing. He fell down between 10 and 15 feet and became trapped in a small space without windows or ventilation. He had to be carefully monitored as firefighters conducted a small space rescue and lowered personnel by rope so he could be hoisted out of the space. The worker sustained injuries and had to be transported to the hospital for treatment.
- Workers could be hurt by accidents with machinery. NJ.com reported of one dock worker who got hurt after a shipping crane lifted her vehicle six feet up into the air and then dropped her vehicle while she was inside of it. She had been driving a tractor trailer called a hustler which moved shipping crates around the dock, when the crate was picked up by the crane and the truck went with it.
These are just a few of the many things which could hurt dock workers as they do labor-intensive work in dangerous environments. From falls to repetitive stress injuries to being crushed by objects, there are countless dangers dock workers face. If and when an injury occurs as a result of these risks, injured employees need to determine if the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act will provide them with the opportunity to obtain benefits and compensation for damages.