A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 1983 by two major safety regulators, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Coast Guard, to ensure they are able to provide consistent support to maritime workers. Including these two organizations, there are several organizations and departments enforcing dozens of laws and regulations to protect maritime workers and seamen in the course of his or her employment at sea.
The General Purpose of the 1983 Memorandum of Understanding
Prior to the enactment of the 1983 Memorandum of Understanding, OSHA and the Coast Guard operated independently to regulate the maritime industry's safety measures. There was confusion as to which agency was responsible for vessel inspection, certification, and safety enforcement.
The Memorandum of Understanding set forth the specific duties of each organization and improved the standards of record keeping which can be important evidence in a maritime injury claim.
Making the Distinction between OSHA and Coast Guard Authority
Under the Memorandum of Understanding, the U.S. Coast Guard would be the dominant agency for enforcing health and safety standards upon inspected vessels. They enforce the Vessel Inspection Laws of the United States, as well as additional standards and regulations as outlined in the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Manual, and Navigation and Vessel Inspection circulars.
OSHA's authority comes from the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. This act was created to assure healthy working conditions for men and women employed in regulated industries. Because the Coast Guard already regulates the health and safety of seamen, OSHA does not enforce the OSH Act in cases of injuries. A Jones Act maritime law will address this, however.
OSHA does retain some regulatory power when it comes to cases of discrimination of employees who have enacted any provision of the OSH Act. This means maritime employees have the right under the OSH Act to file a complaint about unsafe working conditions. Any complaints of another nature must be filed with or transferred to the Coast Guard.
Even though the Coast Guard and OSHA work independently, they often share communications and resources regarding safety investigations and training. OSHA has developed multiple safety programs targeted toward maritime worker safety and health, and has several online resources for employees and employers.
Maritime Workers Have Multiple Rights to Workplace Safety
Even though the general OSH Act does not regulate maritime workplace safety, the U.S. Coast Guard provides equal regulation to enforce a safe work environment for seamen. The 1983 Memorandum of Understanding ensures that both departments can enforce their specific laws, and ensures coverage for seamen that does not result in conflict between the two agencies.
Jones Act maritime law injury claims can become very complex when multiple laws and regulatory agencies are involved. An injured seaman may not be aware of which agency to contact when he or she has suffered a serious injury on the job. After reporting an offshore injury to your employer, a Louisiana maritime attorney in New Orleans can help determine which federal agencies will uphold your right to compensation for your losses. A Louisiana maritime attorney in New Orleans will have more information on Jones Act maritime law as well as the Memorandum of Understanding.