How does your back feel? Sore? Are you in pain? Does the pain radiate down into your legs or your buttocks, your thighs, your hamstrings, even to your feet? Do you have numbness in your lower extremities? If you’re a fisherman and you’ve been working for any period of time you probably feel these symptoms. If you listen to your captain and your vessel owner it’s just an expected hazard of your profession. To that we call B.S.
Although arthritis is a degenerative process which takes place over time, most healthy Americans do not experience symptoms related to arthritic changes in the spine until they have become senior citizens and are no longer in the workforce.
Not so with fishermen. Why? Because the rigors of the job have exposed you to repetitive stress, awkward postures and repetitive lifting which is too difficult and too heavy and violates almost all recognized industrial hygiene ergonomic standards.
Although the vessel owners will tell you that this is not preventable, it most certainly is. Want proof? Go to your nearest Home Depot or Lowes and take a look at the packaging on any heavy item. Take a toilet for instance. What will you see? WARNINGS telling you that the item is too heavy to be lifted by one person, requires at least two people or mechanical assistance to lift, and should not be lifted, even once, without it being done with the proper manpower, the proper mechanical assistance and in the proper manner.
Why? Because all industries, except fishing, recognize that lifting heavy items – even one, and especially repetitively – poses a significant risk for causing backing injuries and, over time, accelerating the rapid onset of degenerative and arthritic changes in your spine.
What’s more? The Jones Act and OSHA both require vessel owners to protect you as a fisherman from being exposed to injuries caused by lifting heavy items, either once or over time. If you are feeling symptoms related to low back pain and you have been fishing for a period of time, you may be entitled to recover damages under the Jones Act for your vessel owner’s negligence in exposing you to the stressors which cause this pain.
If you wonder if you fall into this category 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.