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Metairie Louisiana Legal Blog

The Longshore Harbor Workers' Compensation Act and falls at work

Nearly every worker here in Louisiana runs the risk of suffering injuries while on the job. One of the most often seen work-related accidents involves falls. Below are some of the most commonly seen injuries due to falls at work. For those who work the navigable waters surrounding the state, benefits for these and other injuries do not come from workers' compensation. Instead, some will qualify under the Longshore Harbor Workers' Compensation Act while others will qualify under the Jones Act.

In any case, the injuries that workers most often suffer due to falls include broken bones, which can take a significant amount of time to heal during which it may not be possible to work. Other injuries that can limit a person's ability to earn an income are sprains and strains. Like broken bones, these injuries cause a substantial amount of pain and limitations in mobility. 

The basics of admiralty and maritime law

The waterways around Louisiana provide employment for numerous residents. During the course of their duties, they could suffer debilitating injuries. The problem is that those who work on vessels, harbors, docks or oil platforms do not qualify for traditional workers' compensation as those who work on land do. Instead, they must rely on admiralty and maritime law for the benefits they need during recovery.

Federal courts hear most work-related injury claims. Depending on the type of work the injured person does, claims would be filed under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act or the Jones Act. In some cases, a claim could be filed under both acts.

Do you know about the Nonappropriated Fund Instrumentalities Act?

The U.S. Armed Forces has installations all over the world, including here in Louisiana. Many civilians fill essential roles that support the soldiers stationed at them. Some civilians working on these installations would receive benefits under the Defense Base Act if injured at work, but not all. Benefits for those in a certain category would come from the Nonappropriated Fund Instrumentalities Act.

The NFIA falls under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. It covers those employees that are paid through nonappropriated funds such as workers at the exchange, at other retail stores and for recreational activities designed to make life better for service members. Employees working in these capacities here in Louisiana fall under the law.

Safety on an offshore oil platform isn't guaranteed

Some Louisiana residents make their living working out on the water, but not on navigable vessels. Instead, they work on oil platforms, which comes with numerous dangers. Even when a company takes safety on an offshore oil platform seriously, accidents still happen that cause injuries and take lives.

For example, Shell operates an auger tension leg platform out in the Gulf of Mexico somewhere in the neighborhood of 214 miles from New Orleans. Recently, personnel on the platform were conducting safety drills when an accident occurred. At around 9 a.m. on June 30, tragedy struck during a mandatory and routine lifeboat launch and retrieval test. 

Would eliminating 'bunker' fuel reduce work-related illnesses?

Louisiana residents who work in the shipping industry on the country's navigable waters are more than likely familiar with "bunker" fuel. Many freighters use this heavy fuel oil to power the engines. Unfortunately, this fuel can cause work-related illnesses such as asthma and other respiratory ailments that could cut a career short.

Bunker fuel consists of the dregs left over from the oil refining process. It is thick and loaded with sulphur, which produces fine particles and noxious gases when burned. It is not hard to imagine that it could cause problems with those working and living on the freighters that use this fuel knowing that the fumes can travel several miles and still affect the surrounding communities.

Working near water doesn't guarantee LHWCA coverage

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) helps provide compensation for those who suffer injuries “on the navigable waters of the United States.” For some, it’s easy to understand if they are eligible for this compensation. Those hurt while performing construction on a pier or dock can file a claim quickly.

For others, it might not be as straightforward. Plenty of people operate near “navigable waters” and aren’t involved in shipbuilding or what many would consider traditional maritime occupations.

Maritime law the focus of recent U.S. Supreme Court decision

Sailors here in Louisiana and elsewhere face numerous dangers aboard ship regardless of whether they work for the U.S. military or a private company. One of those hazards comes from chemicals and other materials that could be toxic. Sailors have a right to know what could potentially cause them harm as they perform their onboard duties, and the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in a case involving maritime law affirms that right.

Two veterans of the U.S. Navy received news from their doctors that they had cancer. They believe their unknown exposure to asbestos aboard ship caused it. Their subsequent lawsuits against the manufacturer of some equipment went all the way up to the country's highest court.

A neck sprain could keep a worker on land for some time

Working on one of Louisiana's navigable vessels comes with risks. While workers often make sure they do what they can to avoid the obvious risks associated with their jobs, they may not pay enough attention to the less dangerous, but potentially just as debilitating, dangers. For instance, a neck sprain may not seem serious, but it could keep a worker on land for some time. 

A sudden twisting of the spine, a fall or whiplash could all lead to a neck sprain. When it happens, a worker may not think much of it, or it could cause excruciating pain. In fact, a neck sprain may not even happen in a sudden accident. It could result from a worker repeatedly forcing his or her joints beyond their normal limits. In either case, the resulting injury will undoubtedly be accompanied by pain.

Making forklift safety a priority on Louisiana's docks

Even though Louisiana workers assume a certain amount of risk when they take a job at a dock or harbor, it does not release their employers from providing a safe work environment. In fact, state and federal law require it. This extends to the equipment used in order to perform their duties, including forklifts. Employers are responsible for making sure that forklift safety is a priority for everyone in order to avoid accidents that could lead to serious or fatal injuries.

For instance, only employees who have the proper training should operate forklifts. Employers are responsible for making sure these vehicles remain in good working order, which means keeping up with routine maintenance and making repairs as soon as an issue is discovered. Even cleanliness is important since oil, grease and other debris creates a dangerous hazard.

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