The idea that welding, or the use of welding such as procedures and tools in the maritime industry, has federal regulations, may sound odd, but just consider the dangers of this work. Those who do what is known as “hot work,” will use spark and heat producing tools and procedures to help build or repair ships and vessels. They also work on piping, tanks, containers, girders, and many other heavy duty materials and structures. This means that there is more risk than a burn injury from equipment.
In fact, hot work can lead to an explosion or fire, exposure to toxic fumes and gases, and the many subsequent injuries that can occur whenever something goes wrong. For this reason, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, known as OSHA, has many rules and regulations that apply to hot work.
However, OSHA itself does not monitor the day-to-day work done by maritime workers such as those doing hot work. It is up to the employer and vessel owner to make sure that all OSHA rules are complied with. Should something go wrong, and a hot work accident occur, it could be that the employer was negligent and did not do all that they could to prevent an accident or protect workers.
Certainly, there is a tremendous amount of risk involved in hot work in the maritime setting. You may be doing work in very small spaces, inside of tanks, in places where fumes easily accumulate or where you can be injured by accidents not even related directly to the hot work (such as a crushing accident or a slip and fall incident). In all of these examples, you may not be at fault for an accident that leads to your injury, disability, or death, and there are maritime laws that will provide you or your dependents with compensation if something happens.
It is important to understand that there are huge differences between the risks involved in maritime work, hot work in particular, and negligence that leads to accidents. In other words, the rules created by OSHA are meant to almost eliminate the threats to you, and if those rules are ignored, it becomes negligence that put you at unnecessary and illegal risk. This sort of negligence has rules that apply to it as well, and maritime laws provide you with a way to claim compensation beyond maintenance and cure.
For instance, if you are doing hot work in a maritime setting and your employer fails to check that you (or co-workers) are complying with all OSHA regulations, it is an open and shut case of negligence. Though they are not directly ignoring regulations, failing to be sure that the regulations were being upheld is negligence. As such, if an accident was due to those ignored regulations, you can seek compensation for injuries, disabilities or even the death of a loved one killed in the hot work accident.
Though hot work accidents are most common in shipyards (MarineInsight, 2015), they can happen on board a vessel on the water, at a dock, and just about anywhere else in the maritime industry. In most cases, maritime laws are there to protect you following such an accident. You must sit down with a qualified and knowledgeable maritime lawyer for the best outcome, though, because the laws can be complex and are never something to just pursue on your own. You have certain rights to file claims under the maritime laws, and your attorney can help to make sure you get what you legally deserve as compensation.