Most of us have read headlines of horrific accidents relating to the maritime industries. From full vessels being lost at sea to explosions on oilrigs, there are a lot of obvious threats to those working in the various areas of the maritime industry. However, there is also threat rarely mentioned that can put workers at risk, and that is when drug-related accidents occur.
Though the federal government has made many moves to, “Improve already stringent regulations,” (Olsen, 2014) there is something that can slip right through the cracks. That is the hidden use of drugs by those who operate the equipment and work alongside others in the maritime industry.
For example, a person working on a vessel may use equipment while under the influence of narcotics, and their slowed response time or impairment may lead to an accident that leaves others injured, disabled, or dead. This may be seen as a case of human error, but is it? A lot of experts would argue that this is not human error when there are supposed to be so many fail-safes in place where supervision is concerned.
It is the responsibility of the employer to enforce a drug and alcohol testing policy, and to actually conduct the mandatory and random tests. Maritime law requires written drug policies, and pre-employment tests. These same tests should be done, randomly, throughout the year and cover at least half of the crew.
Thorough records must be kept regarding these tests, and all of the appropriate steps must be documented whenever an employee tests positive or refuses a test. Firing someone is not obligatory, but a drug or alcohol violation while on the job does demand proper procedures and follow up to ensure the individual is not going to continue with this illegal and dangerous habit.
Additionally, should an accident occur, the employer is required to test the person responsible or involved within two hours of the incident for blood alcohol level, and also for drugs in the blood stream.
Should there be a lack of proof that these steps were taken, it is a sign or indication that negligence on the part of the employer may have played a role in the drug-related accident. In cases such as this, the maritime law dictates that those injured or the surviving dependents of those killed are to be compensated.
When you must shoulder the burden of proof, it can be challenging when you have no experience with maritime law. Additionally, you may be attempting to handle this issue while also striving to overcome injuries. This is not something you can or should do alone. When you have suffered injuries or the loss of someone you love due to a drug-related accident in the maritime industry, a skilled lawyer is your most important resource.
Regardless of the circumstances of a drug-related accident, the maritime laws exist for the period before the incident in order to reduce the chances it might occur, and they exist for the period after an accident in order to protect those unnecessarily injured or harmed by someone who was on drugs or legally drunk when the accident occurred.
The employer has tools that can help them reduce instances of workplace drug use or drunkenness, and they must document that they have made efforts to prevent such catastrophes. If there is negligence on their part in this area, you may have a case and be due adequate compensation. Speak to a maritime lawyer and learn all that you can about this issue.