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Serious Dangers When Out at Sea: Maritime Workers Face Potential Exposure to Toxic Chemicals and Injuries


Posted in High Seas, High Risk: Offshore Injury on May 6, 2018


While maritime work can be appealing because it offers steady employment and solid pay, it can also be a very hazardous occupation. Many maritime workers are exposed to highly toxic chemicals that can have long-term effects on their health, increase the risk for certain diseases, and even cause death.

Although there are laws in place to protect maritime workers’ health, if these rules are not followed because a company fails to properly train workers, maintain safety equipment, or is negligent in any other way, the consequences can be deadly.

The team of highly qualified Houston maritime lawyers at Lapeze & Johns has been protecting the rights of maritime workers who have been injured as a result of being exposed to toxic chemicals. We understand that when a maritime worker is injured, the consequences can be catastrophic and have long-lasting implications for the worker and their family. You do not have to go through this difficult time alone. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of being exposed to toxic chemicals, call Lapeze & Johns today at 713-719-1010.

Types of Toxic Chemicals in the Maritime Industry

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a toxic or hazardous substance is any substance that poses a physical or health hazard, or is classified as a simple asphyxiant, a combustible dust, a pyrophoric gas, or a hazard not otherwise classified.

Maritime workers, whether they transport goods, work in the oil industry, work on fishing vessels, or otherwise, can be exposed to a variety of toxic chemicals through their daily work. Some of the most common types of toxic chemicals that maritime workers are exposed to include the following:

  • Benzene: Maritime workers who are most often exposed to benzene are those who clean the vessel tanks and perform maintenance. Benzene is a colorless, sweet-smelling chemical frequently used on cargo ships, especially those carrying crude oil and gasoline. Benzene can cause a variety of medical issues, including breathing problems, immune system issues, internal bleeding, and even cancer.
  • Hydrogen Sulfide: This is a colorless, toxic gas that is a byproduct of decomposing organic matter. While a variety of maritime workers can be exposed to hydrogen sulfide, those working on fishing vessels are particularly at risk. Poor ventilation and crowded spaces make exposure to hydrogen sulfide more likely. Exposure to hydrogen sulfide can knock people unconscious and may even cause death.
  • Asbestos: Many ships built before 1980 that are still being used to today include materials made of asbestos. While asbestos is not technically a chemical (it is considered a naturally occurring mineral), inhaling asbestos can cause serious health issues, such as mesothelioma and asbestosis.

While these are the most common types of toxins that maritime workers are exposed to, they can also be exposed to other toxic substances on a regular basis, such as chlorine, acids, paints, ammonia, pesticides, herbicides, gasoline, diesel fuel, detergents, degreasers, arsenic, lead, cadmium, and chromium.

When engaged in maritime work is it vital to be aware of your health and recognize the symptoms of exposure to toxic substances.

Symptoms of Exposure to Toxic Materials

Exposure to toxic chemicals can manifest symptoms in various parts of the body and internal systems, including the kidneys, stomach, intestines, brain, spinal cord, and blood. Common symptoms of exposure to toxic materials include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Back pain
  • Frequent or infrequent urination
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness or coma
  • Convulsions
  • Chills & fever
  • Coughing
  • Rashes or redness
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness or exhaustion
  • Depression

In addition to these symptoms which can manifest quickly, there are also diseases which may take longer to detect. Some diseases that occur as a consequence of exposure to toxic chemicals include:

  • Various types of cancer
  • Lung disease
  • Brain damag
  • Immune system issues
  • Infertility

Prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals may also result in death. If you or a loved one has been exposed to toxic chemicals, seek medical attention immediately.

Compensation for Your Injuries

Exposure to any toxic substance can have both short- and long-term consequences that may result in serious injuries and even death. Under the Jones Act, companies who employ maritime workers and are negligent in providing safe working conditions can be held liable for their failure to provide a safe environment.

Additionally, under federal and state law, maritime employers have a responsibility to ensure worker safety. This includes safety training that covers things like how to use protective gear, how to use safety equipment, and what to do in the event of an emergency. Employers must also ensure that vessels are seaworthy and properly ventilated. Failure to adhere to any of these precautions can leave an employer at-fault if an employee is injured or killed due to exposure to toxic chemicals.

If you or a loved one was injured or died as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals while employed in the maritime industry, you may be entitled to compensation.

Contact the Gulf Coast maritime lawyers at Lapeze & Johns today.

Dealing with the aftermath and health consequences of exposure to toxic chemicals can be extremely stressful for a victim and their family. That’s why the experienced and aggressive Houston maritime lawyers at Lapeze & Johns are here to help.

Over the years, we have collected hundreds of millions of dollars for clients injured while working at sea, and you can trust that we won’t stop fighting until you get the compensation you deserve. If you have suffered injuries or a loved one has died as the result of being exposed to toxic chemicals, contact the highly qualified attorneys at Lapeze & Johns for help by calling 713-719-1010 today.