Gennusa, Piacun, & Ruli

Admiralty / Maritime Law

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Safety questioned as Navy shipbuilding ramps up

Reports show that President Donald Trump plans to increase Navy shipbuilding in the United States. While running for office, he said he wanted the "largest expansion of the Navy since the Reagan administration." Even though budgeting looks to be under that goal, it still shows that shipbuilding will increase -- to the tune of billions of dollars -- as the Coast Guard and the Navy both get more vessels.

These contracts are going to shipyards in the United States. While that makes sense logistically and will boost the economy with increased government spending, critics worry about safety. They know that the shipbuilding industry in the U.S. has a history, over the past 10 years, of some significant safety violations.

A crane accident

For example, one man was seriously injured in an accident when the crane he was using tipped over. Co-workers stared in horror as the man suffered serious head injuries.

"The boom pulled back and it just bounced back all kinds of ways," said a co-worker and former rigger operator who watched it happen. "And he was just messed up. His head was crushed. That stuff like that, it's just something that you ... can't forget."

The man did survive the incident, but his injuries were so bad -- he's now blind -- that his wife has to provide him with care 24/7. As you can imagine, the financial toll that comes along with something like this can be enormous. In many cases, on top of the vast medical bills, neither person can work, so the impact to wages and income goes on endlessly.

Reports show that the crane had a broken load sensor. The man complained about it for months before the crane tipped over. Two days before the incident, the company did re-install the sensor, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said it was not fully functional.

A deadly explosion

In another case, workers were inside of a tugboat, putting down a layer of paint thinner. They did not have proper ventilation, they were working in a crawlspace and they did not have explosion-proof lighting. The vapors from the paint thinner accumulated inside the crawlspace to more than 600 times what safety laws allow.

When those vapors exploded, they ripped the boat apart. Two workers died. Others barely escaped with their lives.

The company got fined $800,000 for the incident. However, just a month later, they got a Navy contract for a new ship worth $87 million.

Your rights

These are just two examples, but they really show the dangers of this industry and the impact this increased spending could have. If you get hurt, you must know all of your legal options.

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