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Business as Usual: Why Hasn’t the Fishing Industry Caught up to Industry Standards?

January 14, 2021

The scenario we are often confronted with is a client who has been injured by a condition, device or practice that has been allowed to exist for decades and the vessel owner’s response is, essentially, “It’s always been that way, what did you expect?”

Simply put, we expected that the fishing industry would do what all other industries in this country have d0ne, and which Congress mandated through the adoption of the Jones Act and OSHA. That is, continually analyze the workplace and develop and institute continuous safety improvements to ensure that you’re providing a reasonably safe workplace.

Just because something has always been allowed to exist does not mean that it was not unnecessarily dangerous and therefore something that the vessel owner could be held responsible in damages .Take scupper doors for example. They never work. They certainly do not work properly. Virtually every vessel in the North Atlantic fleet, for time immemorial, has been plagued by vessel doors which are difficult to open, difficult to close and oftentimes get stuck. Yet the fishing industry has done nothing to improve the design of these doors leaving the inherent but routine dangerousness alone and leaving worker exposed to unnecessary injures. And in a case we currently have about this condition, the vessel owner’s defense is simply – What do you want us to do? Scupper doors have always been like this.

If you have been injured by a condition on a vessel, whether that be a device, part of the vessel or even a work practice that has been allowed to exist in an unsafe manner, to the point that it has simply blended into the routineness of the everyday workplace, you have a potentially strong case and a right to sue your maritime employer for damages that occurred as a result of that injury and that device or practice.

Please contact us via email or at (617) 773-5500, so we can discuss how adhering to industry standards would have made your workplace better. We can  help you to explore your rights under the Jones Act and general maritime principles.