Towing vessels are an important part of the transportation and logistical infrastructure of the Mississippi River and the port of New Orleans. More than a few Orleans Parish residents go to work each day aboard a towboat. The federal government has promulgated regulations that govern general health and safety requirements aboard towing vessels. This blog post will give a brief overview of these regulations.

First, vessel owners or managing operators must put procedures in place to report unsafe conditions. They must also keep records of health and safety incidents that happen on their towboats, and they must provide incident reports and crew members’ own medical records to crew members upon request.

All vessel equipment – such as ladders, towing gear, deck machinery, cranes, embarkation devices, machinery and safety equipment – must be used as recommended by the manufacturer and used in a manner that minimizes the risk of injury and death. If machinery or equipment on board is not in proper working order, or missing guards or safety devices, the machinery or equipment must be tagged, covered or rendered unusable.

Crew members must be supplied with – and use – the proper, government-approved personal protective equipment appropriate for the job. The personal protective equipment must be properly maintained and in good repair, and crew members must be trained in its proper use. The vessel generally must be kept in a sanitary condition.

If these rules are not followed, there may be an increased likelihood of injury to crew members. An injured crew member may have options under admiralty law. These options may exist even if the crew member is not aware of any rule violations leading to the injury.