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Maritime vs non-maritime workers on offshore wind installations

On Behalf of | Aug 8, 2022 | Longshore/Maritime Accidents

Offshore contractors construct, maintain and operate offshore facilities around the US coasts. They often use special purpose vehicles to help with the rapid progression of offshore facilities in the wind industry. Texas and other states are looking into offshore wind facilities to increase their energy output. People on offshore wind facilities should understand the US Jones Act cabotage laws and legal regimes covering various employees.

Workers of offshore wind operations

Offshore wind operation employees include maritime employees, Jones Act seamen and other non-maritime employees. Many employees are under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act or the Jones Act. The acts have different coverages, which change the rights and remedies of workers during longshore/maritime accidents.

The Jones Act

Seamen have had the Jones Act protections since 1920, which give them the right to sue an employer for damages after an injury while working. Under the Jones Act, a person must work on a ship or have a connection to a vessel or fleet. The captain and crew of offshore supply vessels would be seamen, but an engineer on a stationary offshore facility might not count. A contractor working with a barge is less clear under the law. The contractor’s seaman status would depend on the ship’s status. Under the Jones Act, an employer must provide maintenance and cure for an ill or injured employee. Negligence is a separate claim under the act, but unseaworthiness is under general maritime law.

The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act

Workers who don’t qualify for the Jones Act may use the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. The status and situs tests need workers to have accidents over US waters as maritime employees. The LHWCA offers medical, surgical and treatment payments to workers. The act includes temporary or permanent disability benefits and gives workers exclusive remedies against their employer. The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act can expand on the benefits.

State worker compensation laws may help non-maritime employees who aren’t seamen or maritime employees. Non-maritime employees tend to be people who visit the offshore wind facility occasionally. Non-maritime employees can’t sue their employer for damages but can file for vessel negligence. All vessel owners have to take care of any passengers or crew.