Protecting Maritime Workers During COVID-19

With so many maritime workers considered essential employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, many have found themselves wondering what their employers are doing—or should be doing—to keep them safe. COVID-19 spreads quickly in tight indoor quarters, so an entire ship worth of staff can quickly find themselves quarantined if proper precautions are not followed.

Have you fallen ill while working aboard a vessel? Let us help. Call Fuquay Law Firm at 251-219-0329 to set up a consultation now.

Training Delays and Changes

Some of the greatest changes affect those who are trying to enter the field or advance within their current career path. In an effort to keep maritime workers and students safe, schools have adopted new protocols and restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19 while still allowing students to get the education they need.

Historically, training for maritime careers has never been done online. That changed nearly overnight with COVID-19, and now many schools offer as much theory-based education online as possible. Schools that still offer in-person learning have had to make drastic changes to allow for social distancing. Classes that once held 100 students can now hold as few as 10, leading to unexpected delays for students.

Difficulties Obtaining PPE

The nationwide search for personal protective equipment has been particularly difficult for maritime employees, who have found themselves somewhere behind doctors, nurses, nursing home care staff, and hospitality workers in the growing need for gloves, masks, and more. However, with so many vessels requiring multiple employees to work together in tight quarters, PPE is non-negotiable. In response, many employers and professional associations have taken initiative to secure required PPE for maritime employees.

Schedule Uncertainties

Part of keeping people safe from COVID-19 is limiting exposure to infected individuals. As a result, many boats and other vessels have been kept adrift at sea until government officials could decide how best to handle a vessel with infected employees aboard. While this protects those on land from infected staff members, it leaves staff members onboard more susceptible to exposure.

The need for quarantine has also led to countless schedule changes. Workers may have to wait indefinitely for a trip to start while vessels are decontaminated, or trips may be cancelled if an outbreak sweeps through a vessel. Unfortunately, these schedule irregularities and lost income may be necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Compensation Options for Those Who Fall Ill

Even if proper precautions are taken and crew members use personal protective equipment, infections still happen. When crew members are infected by COVID-19, there are multiple ways they may be able to seek compensation. The Jones Act allows seamen who become ill while working to seek maintenance and cure. This act covers living expenses and medical expenses. This requires the seaman to prove that they fell ill while working, which is fairly easy with COVID-19 contract tracing.

Jones Act benefits are paid until the recipient reaches maximum medical recovery. In addition to other expenses paid, employers have to pay wages until the end of the trip. If the illness happened due to an employer’s negligence, the employee may be able to seek further damages. In this case, this may be an option if the employer fails to provide proper personal protective equipment, requires employees to work in close quarters when there are other options available, or knowingly places an infected seaman with uninfected workers.

Those who work as repair professionals, harbor workers, or stevedores may qualify for compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. This covers medical care, vocational rehabilitation, and compensation to those who become ill in a maritime commerce job.

While there are compensation options for those who become ill, prevention is the far better option. Maritime employees should push for sufficient personal protective equipment, aggressive testing policies, and procedures that minimize their risk of catching COVID-19 while engaging in their essential work duties.

Reach Out to Fuquay Law Firm for Help with Your Maritime Injury Case

If you’ve been injured or become ill while working in a maritime position, you may be able to seek compensation. Learn more about your options now by contacting Fuquay Law Firm. Call us at 251-219-0329 or get in touch online to set up a consultation.