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Risk Management Bulletin


By June 1, 2012No Comments

If your employees perform certain incidental work-related duties on, along, or near, navigable water, you must carry Workers Comp insurance under the U.S. Longshore & Harbor Act. (USL&H). You might have noticed the fuzzy words “work-related duties, “incidental,” and “navigable.”

Corporate officers who violate this requirement could face fines of up to $10,000 — or even face or a year in jail.

Let’s explore how the vague words in the USL&H might impact your business. A “navigable” waterway is any body of water that ultimately empties through its tributaries into the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic or Pacific Oceans. This means that the waterway can start one mile or 1,000 miles or more from the gulf or either of the oceans.

Consider the terms “incidental” and “work-related.” Who knows how a court might interpret them? Consider these examples:

  • Making deliveries to a dock
  • Going onto a dock or boat to deliver or fix equipment
  • Carpenter responsible for repairing boxes and barrels used in shipping
  • Transporting to pier with the accident occurring on public roadway before reaching the pier
  • Truck driver loading on dock
  • Welder injured on public highway leaving employer’s facility
  • Machinist working 2.5 miles from water past several public streets
  • Waterfront security guard
  • Employee injured in structural steel shop 2,000 feet from water
  • Unloading fish adjacent to navigable water
  • Injury on public thoroughfare administered and maintained by Port Authority of N & NJ
  • Pier under construction
  • Plumber, carpenter, or electrician working on or near water

If one of your employees suffers an injury near a navigable waterway, he or she can sue you or a company officer — even if the employee was near the waterway for only one hour!

Even worse, such lawsuits don’t limit employees to Workers Comp benefits. They can recover compensatory damages (for pain and suffering) as well as punitive damages — not to mention the fines and jail time mentioned above.

To help you avoid this “on or near the water” exposure, please feel free to get in touch with us.