Dredging It All Up: Common Dredging Accidents & Injuries

Dredging work is one of the larger sources of maritime employment along the inland waters of America today, and large dredging machines are a common sight along the banks of rivers such as the Mississippi or the Ohio.

The work involves the usage of specialized ships designed to excavate sediment from the bottom of a waterway to transport somewhere else, typically to make bodies of water safer to navigate, to counteract erosion, or even the harvesting of shellfish among other reasons.

Much like other forms of maritime employment, dredging work can carry with it a number of hazards, risks, and potential for accident and injury that can leave workers injured – or worse.

If you work on a dredger and you want to know a few of the more common accidents and injury risks to look out for, here’s some of the most frequently encountered dangers onboard a dredging ship:

Blockage in dredging pipelines
Many different types of dredging vessels (such as suction dredges or pneumatic dredges) use complicated series of vacuums and tubes to transport sediment from the bottom of the lake or river to a storage tank aboard the ship. To nobody’s surprise, these tubes are prone to blockage, clogging, and breakdown if not properly maintained, but this maintenance can be risky – loosening these clogs can lead to serious arm injury if the correct safety equipment is not provided by the shipowner.

High pressure water
Certain kinds of dredges use high-pressure water to carve out a path among the sediment in shallow rivers to let boats pass through safely, but these hydraulic systems can pose a risk to crew members if left unrepaired. The high-pressure water jets can cause serious injury to workers (as well as further damage to the vessel) if the water is not correctly shut off or rerouted, and any damage to these systems could contribute to maritime injuries such as injured limbs or scalded skin, as well as injuries caused by broken hoses such as steam injuries, bruising, or even chemical spills depending on the machinery used to pressurize the water.

Fishing dredge injuries
A lot of dredges are designed to collect shellfish off of the floor of the lake or river in order to process the shells into other materials, and these can carry a lot of similar risks to other fishing vessels such as the risk of laceration from hooks used for netting, being crushed by crabbing pots used to hold onto the shellfish, drowning and falling overboard, or even injuries from the machinery used to control the nets such as broken arms or severed digits.

Improperly trained crew members
Dredges, more than many other types of maritime vessels, have a lot of complex moving parts that need careful maintenance and correct usage to prevent injury and damage. If the shipowner doesn’t take care to make sure each worker onboard the vessel is correctly trained in the usage of these tools and equipment, it can lead to injury to other workers through negligence or incorrect handling of equipment.

If you work on board a dredge and have suffered these or other types of maritime injury, contact the maritime attorneys of O’Bryan Law.