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Offshore oil rig and natural gas rig workers and compensation

Offshore oil rig and natural gas rig workers are vital to the national economy, but they're also doing some of the most hazardous jobs in the world.

These offshore workers face hostile weather conditions on a daily basis and run the constant risk of injury due to unsafe equipment and ships. They also have to constantly be on guard for the accidental negligence of their own co-workers -- an inexperienced move by a fellow employee can easily lead to disaster.

When offshore oil rig workers do end up injured, it can be confusing to try to determine their rights to compensation. While many offshore workers have heard of the Jones Act, fewer are familiar with their rights under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA). The OCSLA gives the federal government jurisdiction over any point up to three miles off the coast of any state and grants the government the ability to lease oil and mineral production rights. It also extends the provision of the Jones Act to both temporary and permanent offshore structures, like oil rigs and natural gas rigs. It also extends the provisions of the Jones Act to support vessels that assist.

It's important to remember that the OCSLA only applies to workers who were injured while working on natural resource extraction -- although that umbrella includes everything from the process of exploring potential extraction sites and locating the resources to transporting extracted resources back to the mainland.

Like the Jones act, injured workers covered under the OCSLA are entitled to medical expenses and compensation for any permanent injuries. If an accident is fatal, the OCSLA provides survivor benefits for the worker's dependents. Where the OCSLA differs significantly from the Jones Act, however, is that negligence isn't an issue -- a worker can qualify for compensation just by being injured in the course of his or her job duties.

If you're an oil or natural gas worker who has been injured in an offshore accident, don't try to navigate the complex waters of available benefits alone. Talk to an attorney familiar with offshore injuries and Maritime law about your rights.

Source: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, "Title 43 > Chapter 29 > Subchapter III -- Outer Continental Shelf Lands," accessed July 25, 2017

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