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Offshore Injury: Does the Jones Act or OSHA regulations govern your case?

When a maritime worker has sustained an offshore injury, compensation under the Jones Act may be available. If it was a result of the employer’s negligence, the Act even allows the injured seaman to file a suit against the negligent employer or ship owner. In some cases, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may need to get involved.

How OSHA Regulations Impact an Offshore Injury Case

Workers in the maritime industry are provided rights that help protect them. These protections include not only safety from illness, injury and death, but also certain rights as an employee.

The following are rights regarding the safety of maritime workers:

  • they can refuse work that poses a threat;
  • employers must provide training regarding safety and health standards;
  • if there are safety concerns, workers can file a complaint;
  • workers can ask OSHA to investigate the workplace for safety violations;and
  • employees can request the results of the investigation.

When employees assert their rights under the OSH Act, the employer cannot retaliate, such as by harassing, demoting or firing the employee. Other rights employees have include the employer informing them of OSHA rights and standards.

One of the ways that OSHA may get involved is if there is a hazardous condition that the employer refuses to correct, although the Coast Guard may become involved in the case of an inspected vessel – that is, a vessel subject to United States Coast Guard inspection. The employee can file a formal complaint with OSHA, but the agency may refer complaints regarding inspected vessels to the USCG.

How the Jones Act Impacts an Offshore Injury Case

The Jones Act provides compensation to seamen who are injured on the job in the form of maintenance (daily living expenses) and cure (treatment) benefits. But if the employer was negligent, the seaman may pursue a lawsuit to recover further damages.

It would need to be proven that negligence was the cause of the injury. Examples include improper training of crew, failure to provide safe equipment, vessel/equipment poorly maintained, and an understaffed vessel.

Under the Jones Act, employees who file a lawsuit against a negligent employer may be compensated for current and future medical expenses, current and future lost earnings, pain and suffering, and more.

Qualifying for Compensation in a Jones Act Claim after an Offshore Injury

To qualify, an employee must be considered a seaman. This generally requires the worker to spend at least 30 percent of his or her time in service of a vessel at sea. The following are examples of vessels and structures that may be covered under the Jones Act:

  • oil rigs;
  • fishing boats;
  • crane barges;
  • cruise liners;
  • lift boats;
  • container ships;
  • supply boats;
  • tugboats;
  • crew boats;
  • ships; and
  • cargo vessels.

Some workers in Louisiana may be confused as to whether they are classified as a seaman under the Jones Act. An attorney can help injured workers review their status, go over employer negligence and whether a claim is possible, and assist regarding issues pertaining to OSHA following an offshore injury.

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