Violation of Safety Regulations

Seamen, sailors, oil rig workers and harbor employees all operate in rather harsh conditions. This is the main reasons why strict safety standards apply. A violation of safety regulations could potentially lead to sanctions for the employer or the vessel owner.

Safety regulations are created by OSHA, but there are some specialized maritime statutes, as well. The purpose of these is to ensure the best conditions for maritime workers and to also envision reasonable compensation in the case of a safety violation.

OSHA Maritime Safety Regulations

The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration has safety standards that apply to marine workers. These regulations are specific – longshoring workers, shipyard workers and individuals employed at marine terminals will be covered.

When it comes to longshoring regulations, the OSHA safety standards include certification of gear and working surfaces, procedures for the correct opening and closing of hatches, access to water and access to hygiene supplies.

For shipyard workers, a few of the common requirements include the following:

  • The use of protective equipment corresponding to the line of duty
  • Safety of working surfaces
  • Safety of equipment
  • Adequate ventilation
  • Access to cargo spaces

As far as OSHA safety standards for people working on vessels go, there is generally no unified criteria. Thus, the regulations listed in General Duty Clause 5(a)(1) apply. The clause states that an employer is responsible for giving workers a safe place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that may cause either injury or death.

What Happens in the Case of a Violation?

Whenever a safety standard violation occurs, workers have the right to submit a report to OSHA against the employer.

The administration will usually carry out an investigation and can demand a correction on behalf of the employer. Also, workers may have the grounds to file a lawsuit on the basis of the safety regulation violation.

Workers can also submit a claim under the Jones Act. The act envisions the provision of compensation to seamen who have been injured while doing their job. In order to be eligible for compensation, workers will have to prove that the accident has been caused by negligence on behalf of the employer, the captain or a crew member.

Jones Act provides compensations for pain and suffering, lost wages, benefits, reduced quality of life, permanent disability and medical bills stemming from the injury.

There may not be a prerequisite for the completion of an accident report before the submission of the claim. An accident report, however, may be quite beneficial because it will outline the violation that has occurred and the manner in which the employer/crew member has neglected safety regulations. It doesn’t have to be written immediately, giving the worker some time to think things through.

The procedure is a fairly simple one, and it involves the following steps:

  • Reporting the injury immediately after it has occurred
  • Obtaining contact information from witnesses
  • Filing a company-provided accident report (including sufficient amounts of detail in it)
  • Contacting the captain to ensure the sending of the report to the company’s HR team
  • Contacting an experienced maritime attorney who will provide information about the additional steps that have to be followed

Usually, the burden of proof falls on the plaintiff, but Jones Act is rather lenient. There’s no need to prove that a failure to comply with a safety regulation has been the primary cause of the accident. Rather, the plaintiff should be capable of demonstrating that negligence played any role (even if marginal) in the injury that took place.

Workers who have sustained an injury are free to seek medical assistance from a healthcare service provider of their own choice. The service provider will produce detailed bills pertaining to the cost of the treatment. At this point, a worker is entitled to the payment of maintenance and cure, which means that the employer will be responsible for covering the medical expenses.

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