Employers have a duty to maintain a safe work place for their employees. If they fail to do so, the employer can be held legally responsible for any injuries the employee suffers because due to a workplace injury. A workplace can include not only a fixed location, but also a moveable workplace, such as a ship, airplane, or anywhere else in which an employee is working.

The U.S. Coast Guard recently issued a safety alert to remind ship workers about the importance of emergency systems. The safety alert was issued in response to an incident during an Uninspected Towing Vessel exam, which is an exam of certain types of boats by the Coast Guard.

The safety alert was issued after a crew member, during the exam, accidentally pulled the CO2 release cables instead of the fuel oil shut-off cables. The emergency control panel on the boat contained pull cables for both the CO2 system and the fuel oil shut-offs, and the crew member got confused. In another recent exam, an inspector found two sets of remote emergency shutdowns, but only one set was operational. The original station was fully operational, but not connected. The operational shutdowns were at a separate location.

The safety alert was issued to remind shoreside and vessel personnel of the importance of designing and maintaining emergency systems, so that they can be easily operated in high-stress situations. It’s also important to maintain a high level of crew familiarity with those emergency systems. During the testing of these systems, it’s important to use safeguards so that there is little risk of human error or system malfunction.

In general, emergency systems on board ships are only used during periods of increased stress, such as an emergency, a drill, or an exam by an authority such as the Coast Guard. If crew members are properly trained, and the systems are correctly designed and labeled, the risk of human error can be substantially reduced. The Coast Guard recommends doing a comprehensive step-by-step walk through before testing complicated or confusing systems. Boat operators should also perform regular emergency drills to ensure that all crew members have the proper skills to correctly respond to an emergency.

There have been a few stories in the news recently about boating accidents that have occurred that could have been easily prevented. Any boat operator, whether it’s a commercial vessel or a recreational vessel, must have an emergency plan in place. Emergencies happen, such as fires, poor weather, mechanical issues, and much more, and on a boat if a proper plan is not in place, lives are put at risk.

Commercial boaters have a duty to their employees to maintain a safe workplace. If they fail to do so, and an employee is injured, the employee has the right to seek compensation for those injuries. This could include compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. In some cases, employees are limited to obtaining workers’ compensation for their injuries. In other cases, employees may be able to sue the employer directly for their injuries. Employees may also be able to sue third parties for the circumstances that led to the accident, such as if defective wiring led to a boat fire, the company that manufactured or installed the wiring may be legally liable. You may also be able to pursue compensation against multiple parties.

At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that boat owners and operators must take all necessary steps to keep crew members and passengers safe. If you have been injured in a boating accident in the San Francisco Bay area, call Micha Star Liberty, San Francisco personal injury attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. She works with clients throughout the area, including Oakland, Hayward, Berkeley, Tracy, Fairfield, San Jose, and surrounding cities, to help them with their injury cases. She can provide you with a free consultation, and you pay nothing unless she obtains a recovery for you. Call to learn more.

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