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Fatigue at Sea

For decades, people dismissed fatigue as a contributing factor to human error. Similar to driving a car, people concoct theories on how to fight fatigue with temporary fixes like coffee. However, as we began to create methods to amalgamate data from across the world, companies are finding more and more evidence that fatigue dramatically affects performance. Fatigue at sea is the cause of countless accidents, including the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

What is Fatigue at Sea?

While there is no universal definition of fatigue, it is the degradation of human performance as a result of physical, mental, or emotional exertion.  Fatigue, for example, is not unique to maritime employees; every employee—and person, for that matter, can be subject to fatigue.

The maritime industry is unique, however, given the conditions of employment. We accept that a seafarer is—for lack of a better word—a captive of the work environment.  A seafarer will spend around four and a half months living on a moving vessel with unpredictable environmental conditions.

The Factors of Fatigue

In maritime law, fatigue cases can fall into four causes: crew-specific, management, ship-specific, and environmental. Naval law groups the origins of an incident into three categories. Crew-specific would often place some personal onus on the employee. Ship-specific and management are by definition the fault of the employer. If you do find that you have been injured by your employer’s negligence with regards to staffing or ship maintenance, please don’t hesitate to call a representative here at Friedman, James & Buchsbaum LLP (212.233.9385) to see how we can help. The fourth factor is environmental, which can encompass difficult conditions like excessive heat, cold, as well as excessive noise.

How to Combat Fatigue

As we mentioned earlier, crew-specific fatigue can involve some personal responsibility. You should be sure to control your fatigue to the best of your abilities. Safety4Sea.com, an internet periodical that focuses on maritime safety, suggests a few steps you can take on your end to prevent fatigue. Control your breathing, exercising, resting well, socializing, and identifying the cause of your stress are all useful techniques to help combat fatigue. Many of the risks, however, are out of your control as an employee of a larger vessel.

If you have been injured while working aboard a vessel contact Friedman, James & Buchsbaum LLP (212.233.9385) as soon as possible so we can get to work ensuring you receive the compensation you deserve.