Workplace Violence in the Alaska Maritime Industry


Employees in the maritime industry operate in one of the most challenging workplaces, and there are numerous hazards that pose a risk of injuries or death. Working around heavy equipment, cargo, and large vessels – all while surrounded by water and slippery docks – contributes to the dangers. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that workers in this sector experience a fatality rate nearly six times higher than employees in other industries. From 2011 to 2017, almost 90 seamen were killed and another 11,000 suffered injuries.

However, digging deeper into the data reveals that workplace violence is also a significant contributor to injuries in the maritime industry. Most employees will be covered by the Jones Act under such circumstances, so you should talk to anAnchorage maritime lawyer about your options if you were hurt. An overview may also be useful.


Types of Violence at Sea

 Many reports of violence come through the cruise industry, so they tend to garner more media attention than other maritime settings. Allegations of physical and sexual assault arise between and among passengers and crew members, and alcohol is often a factor. On commercial vessels, altercations involve physical altercations between workers. Causes and contributing factors include:

  • Working long hours and lack of sleep;
  • Cramped quarters for sleeping, eating, and working;
  • Mental health issues after being onboard for weeks or months; and,
  • Alcohol or drug use.


Maritime Employer Responsibilities

Operators of commercial vessels have a duty to ensure the work environment is safe, and this obligation extends to violence. Employers must take reasonable measures to prevent the above causes and contributing factors from turning into assault. Many operators implement security policies to meet their legal duty and protect employees, such as:

  • Establishing a zero-tolerance policy for violence, which sends the message that workers will be immediately terminated for misconduct;
  • Thoroughly vetting employees, including conducting background checks to uncover a history of violence or mental illness;
  • Ensuring that conditions onboard are clean and livable, with plenty of breaks and engagement activities for down time; and,
  • Implementing policies on alcohol and drug use.


Legal Remedies for Injured Seaman

Those who work on and around commercial vessels will usually be covered by the Jones Act, which is a type of federal workers’ compensation system. The key difference is that you DO need to prove that your employer was negligent to recover compensation in a Jones Act claim. In a successful case, you may be entitled to medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other amounts.


Contact Our Alaska Maritime Injury Attorneys to Learn About Your Remedies

If you were hurt because of workplace violence in the maritime industry, keep in mind that your legal options under the Jones Act are more akin to a personal injury case than a workers’ compensation matter. For more information about the process, contact Power & Power Law to set up a free consultation at our offices in Anchorage, Alaska. We can provide additional details after reviewing your circumstances.