Gennusa & Piacun

Admiralty / Maritime Law

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Medical and mental health care needs for seafarers

Seafaring workers have a lot of stress to deal with on a daily basis. The nature of the job comes with many hazards that can make it hard to get through a shift. Knowing these risks should spur employers to take steps to ensure the safety of the employees physically, but also mentally. With the constant pressure of this type of work and the environment, a comprehensive plan must be in place.

Two of the most common issues that seafarers face in regard to their health is the difficulty receiving medical care for problems that come up while they are out to sea and the lack of mental health care during their time on the water. Together, these can lead to catastrophic impacts for the seafarer.

Problems getting medical care

Medical care is usually very limited on seafaring vessels. With the exception of cruise ships, most ships will only have first aid protocol and possibly a nurse. Cruise ships usually have doctors on board, so receiving medical care on these is a bit easier.

Many trips on these smaller vessels will happen without incident. Crew members might suffer from bumps and bruises. Sprains might even occur. Other serious medical conditions like spinal cord or brain injuries, or heart attacks, seldom occur. Because of the unlikelihood of these catastrophic events happening, paying for medical personnel to head out to sea isn't feasible.

Need for mental health care

The need for mental health care for these employees can't be denied. They are often secluded for long periods of time, which can complicate some mental health conditions. Many employers don't think about the dangers of having these types of problems while at sea.

One of the best ways that these issues can be handled is by having mental health professionals ready to help seafarers when they need it. This can come in the form of having a phone-in program for times when they can't make it to dock to get help.

Evaluations before seafarers get on the ship and when they disembark after a voyage can help them to address issues before they get too bad. This can help them to avoid coming to a point where they are unable to work.

Seafarers have special considerations when it comes to addressing work-related injuries and illnesses. Unfortunately, these might require them to take legal action. Working with a team that is familiar with these types of cases and the applicable laws is beneficial.

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