Jones Act Safety Rules
The Jones Act provides fantastic safety rules in the favor of the employee. Most individuals working offshore have no idea of the significant rights and safety rules which apply to their day-to-day activities. Unfortunately many companies routinely violate these rules. Very often when we speak to potential clients we are told that “we always did the job that way” even though specific rules and regulations were being violated.
Under the Jones Act an employee has a right to a “safe place to work”. This is one of the broadest rules of the Jones Act and it applies to many situations which can cause injuries. If your case is decided by a judge or jury, that judge or jury will specifically determine if you were given a “safe place to work”. If you have suffered an injury and you think that the injury may have been caused because your workplace was unsafe, this could be a violation of the Jones Act.
Under the Jones Act your employer also has duties to properly train you, properly supervise your work activities, and provide enough employees to do the jobs to which you are assigned. Very often newly hired employees will not be properly trained on how to do a job. Employers routinely refer to “on-the-job training” or OJT. We have found that this type of training can be insufficient for many of the detailed, complicated jobs which require experienced workers. Unfortunately the more dangerous procedures of certain jobs are the harder to perform procedures. Sometimes the newest employee will be given the hardest job because the more experienced, more senior employees do not want to perform the harder job.
Employers must also provide enough workers for the job to be performed safely under the Jones Act. This is typically one area where many employers will continually perform a job without sufficient employees simply because “it has always been done that way”. The Jones Act addresses this exact situation and the judge or jury in your case will be told that simply performing a job repeatedly the same way does not necessarily make the procedure safe. This is particularly true concerning procedures which are performed infrequently. In these situations, many employers will not have sufficient manpower to perform the job because it is not a routine procedure. Nonetheless, these employers very often simply perform the job with the crew members that are available at that time.
Finally, there are many industry specific rules and regulations which also apply under the Jones Act. These industry standards include the American Petroleum Institute (API) standards which apply to the operation of cranes offshore as well as rigging of cranes and slings. Under the API rules, the crane operator is always “in charge” of any procedure being performed by the crane. The crane operator is also required to have a flag man present on all lifts and the crane operator is ultimately responsible for the rigging of all loads.
Coast Guard rules also apply under the Jones Act since the employee is assigned to a Coast Guard “vessel”. This is the reason that the Coast Guard will typically investigate serious injuries which occur under the Jones Act. Coast Guard regulations include keeping the vessel safe and making sure that there are no dangerous trip or slip hazards aboard the vessel. All walkways also have to be properly marked under Coast Guard regulations.
Finally, OSHA regulations also provide guidance under the Jones Act. OSHA has detailed requirements that inspections be performed of workplaces. OSHA also requires that employees be given “safe” work places and that all equipment and machinery be working properly. Typically OSHA will have detailed specific rules such as requiring that the front of steps be marked with some type of visible marker including yellow paint.