The Longshore Act is a federal law that provides compensation and medical care to maritime workers.The law covers workers who are injured in the navigable waters of the United States. There are also extensions of the Longshore Act that cover other types of federal employees working abroad. This includes the Defense Base Act, which covers military defense workers. If you work in the maritime or defense field, these acts help ensure that you get the right compensation if you’re injured on the job. Read on to learn the history of the Longshore Act and its extensions.
History of the Longshore Act
Congress passed the original Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) in 1927. It offered medical care and compensation to maritime workers who were injured or disabled in U.S. waters. The law excluded the master of the ship and the ship’s crewmembers.
The 1927 bill had some problems. The bill failed to clearly show judicial boundaries between the LHWCA and the state workers’ compensation act. Plus, after filing a LHWCA claim, maritime workers would sometimes also sue the shipowner over their ship’s “unseaworthiness.” This would often lead to the ship owner suing the maritime worker’s employers over contributory negligence. This is known as a third-party-over suit.
In 1972, Congress added an amendment to the LHWCA to deal with these issues. The amendment made it so workers couldn’t sue shipowners over unseaworthiness, but they could still sue over negligence. The amendment also prohibited third-party-over suits and increased LHWCA’s benefits for injured workers.
The 1972 amendment also introduced the status and situs test. The status test says that to get compensation, the injured person must be an employee as defined by the LHWCA. The situs test states that maritime employees are entitled to compensation if they’re working on a structure that’s adjacent to U.S. waters. This includes workers who are injured on dry docks, piers, and wharfs. In general, workers are entitled to compensation if they are working on a structure that’s within a mile of U.S. waters.
The situs and status tests were written a bit broadly, so more workers ended up getting covered than Congress had imagined. To put an end to that, Congress introduced another amendment in 1984. This amendment helped better define which maritime employees are covered under the LHWCA. It also clearly says who is a state worker.
The 1984 amendment excludes clerical workers, marina employees who are not working in construction, and aquaculture workers from the LHWCA. It also excluded shipbuilders who are building any ship that’s less than sixty-five feet long. These employees are all covered under the state workers’ compensation act.
The workers covered under the LHWCA include shipbuilders who are making ships longer than sixty-five feet, shipbreakers, longshoremen, and ship repairmen.Truck drivers who are taking shipping containers off of maritime ships may also be covered under the LHWCA.
The Longshore Acts’ Extensions
The Longshore Act’s provisions have been extended to three other acts: the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), the Non-Appropriated Fund Instrumentalities Act (NAFIA), and the Defense Base Act (DBA). In 1953, Congress put through the OSCLA extension. The OSCLA covers employees who work in natural resource exploration. It provides compensation to workers who are injured on fixed structures on the United States’ Outer Continental Shelf, including oil rigs.
Congress passed NAFIA in 1952. It covers civilian employees who work for the Armed Forces and are paid in non-appropriated funds. For example, civilians who work in recreational facilities at military bases are covered under this act.
Congress enacted the Defense Base Act in 1940 to protect employers who work on overseas military bases. The DBA also protects workers injured on any land used for military purposes outside the United States. In 1958, amendments were added to give coverage to welfare organizations and non-citizens who are working under the United Service Organization. The DBA also covers contractors working on public works projects outside the United States. Plus, the Defense Base Act covers people who are working on contracts that the United States government has approved under the Foreign Assistance Act.
Defense Base Act (DBA) Insurance under the Longshore Act
The insurance requirements for the Defense Base Act are identical to the ones required for the Longshore Act. According to the United States Department of Labor, every employer whose employees fall under the Longshore Act or its extensions must obtain insurance. The only exceptions to this are employees who are self-insured. The insurance must remain in effect the entire time the employee is under contract with the employer.
Under the LHWCA and the DBA, employers are liable for the payment of compensation for injuries and disabilities employees obtained on the job. If the employer fails to get the payment to an employee, the employee can sue.
Employers who fail to obtain DBA insurance can also face stiff punishments from the U.S. government. This includes fines from the government and the potential loss of their contract. Plus, employees can sue contractors who do not have DBA insurance under common law. This means that claimants will not have to prove negligence. This is why it’s vital that employers get the LHWCA or DBA insurance they need before they beginning work on their government contract.
The Importance of Longshore Act and Defense Base Act Insurance
The Longshore Act and its extensions are designed to help workers who are injured on the job. It’s important for general contractors to study the provisions in this law before they sign a contract with the U.S. government. Closely studying these laws will help contractors know for sure if their employees are covered under the LHWCA or the DBA.
If you have questions about the Longshore Act or the Defense Base Act, contact us at the Business Benefits Group. If you’re a contractor, Business Benefits Group can help set you up with the Defense Base Act insurance you need for your employees. Give us a call or email us, and we’ll help you get the necessary insurance for your contract.