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Labor Dept Makes Changes to Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act

Industrial Boat

The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs at the U.S. Department of Labor just issued its final ruling to implement an exclusion for recreational vessel workers under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. The rule sets guidelines for what constitutes a “recreational vessel” under the exclusion.

The LHWCA provides compensation to workers (or surviving family members, in cases of death) for on-the-job injuries that occur during maritime employment on U.S. navigable waters. Before 2009, employees who performed repair or dismantling work on recreational vessels less than 65 feet long were not eligible for benefits through LHWCA if they were already covered by a state workers’ compensation program. The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act extended this exclusion by removing the 65-foot restriction; following the amendment, workers who repair recreational vessels of any length, or who dismantle vessels for repair, are excluded from LHWCA coverage if they have coverage under a state workers’ compensation system.

This rule follows a number of recommendations put forward by the public during open comment sessions on the proposed rule from Aug. 17, 2010. The final rule adopts standards set by the U.S. Coast Guard to define a recreational vessel. The Labor Department has also tacked on two additional provisions to simplify the process of applying these standards in the LHWCA context:

  1. A manufacturer or builder can make determinations about whether vessels are recreational under the meaning of the regulation based on that vessel’s design, rather than on its ultimate use.
  2. Noncommercial vessels with a recreational “design” that are owned or chartered by federal or state governments will be defined as recreational vessels.

The rule is described in detail at the Federal Register’s website: http://federalregister.gov/a/2011-32880. Additional information is available on OWCP’s website at http://www.dol.gov/owcp/dlhwc/lsnewregulation.htm.

The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs administers several disability benefit programs that cover longshore and harbor workers, federal government civilian contractors who work overseas, coal miners, federal employees and nuclear weapons workers. These programs provide a variety of benefits, including income replacement, medical benefits, vocational rehabilitation and survivor benefits. For more information about these programs, visit http://www.dol.gov/owcp.

If you have sustained an injury at work, we encourage you to contact a Washington Workers Compensation Attorney for help with your claim.

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Emery Reddy