The May 28 tragic crash of a helicopter used for transporting offshore workers to drilling rigs and oil production platforms is a case in point that not all maritime offshore worker seamen injuries happen on offshore vessels or structures.
Because production platform rig explosions usually get the most media attention, the general public might not know that there are many other causes of offshore worker injuries, and getting from the shore to offshore job site is one of them. And since offshore workers do a lot of traveling between their offshore work location and land, there are many dangers of maritime worker transport injuries. Seamen employees often have to be transported by a crane carrying a personnel transfer basket or via helicopter onto various worksites, and many things can go wrong out at sea, including airborne equipment failure.
Maritime injury attorney William Gee III, who provides Louisiana and the Gulf Coast with aggressive legal representation in offshore and maritime law cases, has seen countless offshore worker injuries that occurred during travel across the Gulf to offshore structures.
Personnel basket transfers are especially hazardous, as they involve crane operation and present a high risk of offshore worker injury due to potential mechanical problems, operator inexperience, bad weather or poor visibility. An offshore worker may use a personnel basket to be transferred to and from a crew boat onto a submersible, semi-submersible, jack-up, inland barge, drill ship, barge, dredge or other maritime work structure in the Gulf of Mexico.
Offshore employers must therefore do all they can to protect offshore and maritime workers not only from oil drilling rig disasters and production platform accidents but from offshore accident injuries that maritime workers sustain on the way to their job or when going ashore.
The recent offshore helicopter crash caused one death at sea, which was that of the pilot. The Associated Press article, which appeared in the Miami Herald, said a Coast Guard news release reported that divers from the Ocean Inspector vessel had discovered the pilot inside the helicopter cockpit. Though the pilot’s fatal Gulf accident was a tragic loss, thankfully there were no other helicopter passengers or offshore workers on board at the time of the wreck. Only a few years ago in 2009, however, nine people were killed on their way to an offshore oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The event was a warning to all offshore and maritime workers that they take great risks the moment they board a boat or helicopter on their way to work.
Offshore workers need to know that they have rights to legal recourse and compensation, even if they are injured on the way to or from their offshore job. If a maritime worker is injured due to negligence of a third party who is not the offshore worker’s employer, federal maritime law usually provides the rules of law and remedies. In offshore transport accidents, such as a case of a defective transfer basket, mechanical crane failure, faulty helicopter, negligent crane operator or reckless helicopter pilot, maritime tort could apply.