Being close to major waterways here in Louisiana provides a substantial amount of employment opportunities for residents. Working in a shipyard, on the docks or on a vessel provides numerous benefits, but also a wide variety of risks. One that employers should never overlook is the atmosphere on a ship, which could result in serious harm to workers.
Going into confined or enclosed spaces seems to come with the job for many Louisiana residents who work in shipyards. While these spaces are not the only areas of a ship where the quality of the atmosphere could be compromised, spending time in these smaller spaces with little to no ventilation could result in serious injuries and illnesses. Every vessel should have either an NFPA-certified Marine Chemist or a shipyard competent person.
This person’s responsibility evaluates the air quality in enclosed or confined spaces before allowing employees into those areas. In some situations, a shipyard competent person is not enough to ensure the safety of those who must work on board, so an NFPA-certified Marine Chemist should conduct the evaluation. Regardless of which type of individual, his or her duties could save lives.
If an employer fails to have such a person on staff, the lives of many shipyard workers could be in danger. The atmosphere on a ship could contain toxins, chemicals and other harmful contaminants. Allowing workers to go into those areas without first ensuring their safety violates regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and workers’ rights to a safety environment. Anyone injured under these circumstances may pursue benefits through either the Jones Act or the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.