Gennusa & Piacun

Admiralty / Maritime Law

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Should you worry about falling overboard?

As you may already know, working aboard a vessel can be dangerous. In addition to regularly dealing with complicated equipment and needing specialized seafaring knowledge, things like rough seas, equipment malfunctions and a slippery deck can make life at sea more hazardous than routine. One of the many dangers you and other Louisiana boat workers must face is falling overboard.

Man overboard situations are more common than many people may think. According to HowStuffWorks, about 100 passengers went overboard on cruise ships from 1995 to 2007. When you consider that cruise ships are designed to prevent people from easily falling off the deck, it can be sobering to realize the risk of falling overboard on smaller cargo and fishing vessels, which are designed for experienced professionals and not for paying passengers.

Cold is your greatest enemy after going overboard. Upon striking seawater, cold shock can cause you to involuntarily gasp and pull water into your lungs, which may result in a swift drowning. If you find yourself going overboard, you may protect yourself by covering your mouth and nose before hitting water. If you survive the fall, you will want to conserve body heat and energy by floating on your back and hugging your knees against your chest while waiting to be rescued, if you have a protective flotation device. Studies have shown that people who fall overboard have a greater survival rate if they do not lose hope and conserve their energy.

Understanding your crew’s safety protocols involving falling overboard is imperative. This information is meant to educate you, but should not replace the advice of a lawyer.

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