According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shipyard workers in Virginia and across the country have one of the highest rates of injury and death among all U.S. workers. Each day, these skilled laborers face dangerous conditions as they manufacture, repair and dismantle ships and boats in America’s shipyards.
For example, in October 2021, a shipyard tank tester suffered multiple facial fractures and severe brain trauma when he opened a pressurized tank aboard a partially constructed ship in Louisiana. Doctors tried to save his life with emergency brain surgery, but he died four days after the accident.
The CDC reports that at least 45 shipyard workers were killed in job-related accidents between 2011 and 2017.
Common shipyard hazards
Shipyard work involves tasks such as welding, plumbing, machining, rigging, painting and cleaning up chemical and fuel spills. These types of activities expose workers to a variety of physical hazards, including:
- Extreme temperatures
- Fire, electrical and chemical hazards
- Fall hazards
- Noise pollution
- Stressful body positions
- Improperly operated or maintained equipment
Common shipyard worker injuries
Some of the most common injuries suffered by shipyard workers include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Broken bones
- Cuts and abrasions
- Spinal damage
- Repetitive strain injuries
- Hearing loss
- Eye injuries
In addition, studies show long-time shipyard workers have an increased risk of respiratory illness and certain cancers due to exposure to environmental toxins like asbestos, smoke fumes and heavy metals.