Common Maritime Injuries from Icy Conditions

Cargo vessel in motion in icy waters with ice and snow on deck of boat

Icy conditions, whether from inclement winter weather, or simply colder climates, are more common – and dangerous – than ever.

The volatile climate experienced in recent years has led to unprecedented weather conditions that can often turn deadly both on and off the water. One only has to look at the havoc wreaked by the recent blizzards throughout the Southwest, leaving thousands without power or heat for days, to see how serious the conditions are.

Winter conditions such as ice, sleet, snow, or even hail can prove equally dangerous to maritime workers. No matter how seemingly well-heated your vessel may be, the low temperatures can create dangerous conditions for anyone working on the water, in any part of the country that can experience snow.

These environmental hazards can take many forms, including:

  • Ice forming on the docks near a major waterway
  • Ice or snow buildup on a vessel in motion due to low temperatures
  • Ice-covered barges
  • Icy gangplanks and/or docks
  • Frozen pipes bursting or causing a leak (which leads to tripping hazards)
  • Frozen door knobs or locks
  • Icy stairways or railings
  • Puddles from ice that thawed, and can re-freeze

Many of these hazards can be preventable with the right precautions – cleaning and removal of water and snow before it can accumulate on deck, for example, or maintaining pipes to prevent the buildup of ice (leading to leaks or ruptures). In many cases, a lack of proper equipment such as salt (to remove the ice) or ice-grippers (to make it easier to walk across these surfaces) can contribute to these dangers, and may constitute negligence under the Jones Act.

However, if these precautions are not taken seriously, the hazards of icy conditions can lead to major injuries among the crew, or even death in extreme situations.

Icy conditions can result in many different types of injuries for maritime workers, including

  • Fractured bones
  • Leg fractures and injuries
  • Closed or open head injuries
  • Back injuries and spinal injuries, with the potential for paralysis
  • Compound fractures
  • Soft tissue damage/internal bleeding
  • Post-concussive symptoms such as tinnitus (ringing of the ears) and tremors

It then falls to the owner of the ship to provide reasonable precautions against injuries suffered due to winter weather or icy conditions, as any failure in this duty can lead to great danger and risk to the crew.

What Should I Do If I Am Injured In Icy Conditions?

Any injury suffered onboard a vessel, be it from icy conditions or other hazardous situations, should be given immediate medical attention before any further action can be taken. Particularly if the icy conditions led to a man overboard event where the victim needs immediate treatment to prevent the onset of hypothermia or frostbite, all accident victims need to be treated immediately following the accident. In many, more extreme cases, further care may need to be administered at a facility outside of the vessel itself. 

After that, if you believe your injury was caused by, or exacerbated by, negligence on the part of your vessel’s owner, you may be able to seek compensation. Your next step should be to contact the maritime lawyers of O’Bryan Law to help review the facts of your case and start working to get you the justice you deserve. No matter how serious or life-threatening your accident was, any injury can impact your ability to earn a living – and O’Bryan Law can help.

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