The damages that a maritime worker could receive on the job could have lifelong consequences. Despite this, there are workers who are able to find jobs while learning to cope with their disability.
However, some conditions are harder to recover from than others. Many maritime employees are at risk of losing or significantly damaging their hearing or their vision on the job, either through an accident or poor working conditions. It can be difficult to find work for these people afterwards, so workers and their loved ones should be aware of how the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) can help.
Loss of hearing in both ears
Workboats can have excessively loud environments that damage a worker’s hearing. Areas such as the engine room have decibels well above the limit where OSHA recommends workers to wear hearing protection. Because noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is difficult to detect as it develops, some workers risk causing accidents due to not being able to communicate properly in this state. Workers who lose hearing in both ears receive up to 200 weeks of compensation from the LHWCA.
Loss of hearing in one ear
Workers suffering from head trauma could also experience hearing loss. If they are hit near one of their ears, they could suffer from internal ear damage. If the victim can still hear in one of their ears, the LHWCA will provide them up to 52 weeks of compensation. Maritime employers often use audiograms to determine how well the victim’s hearing is and if they are eligible for coverage in their condition.
Loss of sight in both eyes
If a maritime worker loses both eyes from an accident, the employer labels it as a permanent total disability and pays 66.66 percent of their average weekly wages on a regular basis. Maritime workers can develop blindness from failing to wear proper eye protection, causing unwanted material to blur their vision and fracture their eyes in the process.
Loss of sight in one eye
The LHWCA considers the loss of one eye as a permanent partial disability and pays the same amount of coverage as the loss of sight in both eyes, but only for up to 160 weeks. Additionally, if the victim loses their binocular vision or 80 percent of their vision, they receive the same amount of payment as a permanent total or partial disability depending on how many eyes have that condition.
Loss of hearing and senses can be traumatic. Workers and their families should research what legal options they have available to acquire the right amount of compensation from the LHWCA.