In order to enforce safety regulations better and protect seamen who work aboard vessels, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishes a working relationship with the U.S. Coast Guard. The MOU provides guidelines for OSHA’s and the Coast Guard’s authority when it comes to enforcing safety regulations and standards for maritime workers.
Overview of the Memorandum of Understanding
The governing federal agency that prescribes and enforces regulations and standards to protect seamen onboard inspected vessels is the Coast Guard. This includes regulating the working conditions to ensure they and the vessel itself is safe. Meanwhile, OSHA has authority to ensure seaman have safe working conditions as well, but may not enforce the OSH Act regarding the working conditions on inspected vessels.
OSHA’s authority includes requiring employers to post notices informing the employees of their rights to file a complaint about working conditions to the employer, OSHA or the Coast Guard. The employees also should know that they cannot be retaliated against for doing so.
If OSHA receives a complaint other than one stemming from retaliatory actions against an employee for exercising his or her right under the OSH Act, it will be referred to the Coast Guard. This includes complaints of unsafe or hazardous working conditions. The Coast Guard then can investigate the complaint, determine if it’s viable and, if so, require the employer to make corrections.
When a seaman sustains an offshore injury, there may be questions as to whether Jones Act or OSHA regulations apply. A claim may be filed under the Jones Act, and if the employer fires the employee or otherwise acts in a retaliatory manner in response to the claim, a complaint could be filed with OSHA. Seamen in New Orleans may consult an attorney to review these rights.