Marine terminal operators have to pay about $1,300 in weekly compensation to hurt workers, making dock safety promotion a smart fiscal move as well as a good humanitarian decision, according to an industry consultant.
Each year an average of 12 workers are killed at U.S. ports in accidents related to cargo handling, and 13 deaths have been reported this year, said Ronald Signorino, president of the Blueoceana Co. Workers who are injured, or their dependents if the worker is killed, are eligible for compensation under the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.
An injured worker is entitled to two-thirds of his or her weekly wages, making compensation premiums terminal operators’ second most expensive business cost after payroll costs, said Signorino, who has promoted dock safety as a longshoreman, carrier executive and government regulator.
He said premiums account to 10 to 15 percent of terminal operators payroll, and the nationwide industry’s payroll in 2010 was $2.8 billion.
Vessels are becoming bigger, cargo volumes are growing and the types of hazardous cargoes carried in containers are increasing, Signorino told a marine terminal operating seminar in Long Beach sponsored by the American Association of Port Authorities. That requires terminal operators to maintain robust safety programs and continue to train employees in safe cargo handling practices, he said.
The nation’s two dock worker unions, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union on the West Coast and the International Longshoremen’s Association on the East and Gulf coasts, have safety committees that investigate accidents on the docks.