Longshoremen, also known as harbor workers, spend their work day loading and unloading cargo to and from ships. The days can be long, not having routine or consistent hours, as a longshoreman’s shift coordinates with a ship’s schedule. In addition to handling cargo, longshoremen work with potentially dangerous equipment such as cranes, forklifts, and other heavy machinery. Each task can be risky, leading to numerous injuries from minor to fatal, each year. According to the United States Department of Labor, The Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) provides employment-injury and occupational-disease protection to approximately 500,000 workers who are injured or contract occupational diseases occurring on the navigable waters of the United States, or in adjoining areas.
How the Longshoreman Act Protects
On a foggy early morning in August, Tony, was standing on top of a cargo freight, securing it before the vessel was scheduled to ship out. Because of the fog, a heavy layer of condensation covered the top of the cargo freight. When Tony pulled to check the security ties, he lost his footing and slipped, hitting his head against the metal freight. He lost consciousness, momentarily, and broke his arm. Due to his injuries, he’ll be out of work for at least a couple of months.
Without the Longshoreman Act to protect him, Tony would be left with a large amount of medical bills and no job to pay for them. The Longshoreman Act protects longshoreman, harbor workers, and other maritime worker who are injured during the course of their employment. Even if workers suffer from diseases caused or worsened by conditions of employment, the act provides medical benefits, compensation for lost wages, as well as rehabilitation services. For more information concerning specific employee benefits, visit the United States Department of Labor.
On a cold winter morning, George, a cargo supervisor, after checking on the latest incoming cargo, was heading to his office for a coffee break. A crane driver was driving in George’s direction. George, thinking the driver saw him did not hurry along. The crane’s dangling giant metal hook swung and hit George, knocking him down. The crane driver, still not aware of George’s close proximity, proceeded to drive forward, accidentally running George over. George was pronounced dead on the scene of the work accident. George left behind a wife and three children.
Despite the tragic work-related accident, George’s family will receive benefits because of the Longshoreman Act. According to the United States Department of Labor, the act protects and benefits a family after a work-related death:
- If the work injury causes, contributes to, or hastens the employee's death, death benefits are paid to certain specified survivors up to an aggregate of two-thirds (2/3) of the deceased employee's Average Weekly Wage (AWW) . Funeral expenses up to $3,000 are also payable.
- A widow or widower receives one-half (1/2) of the decedent's AWW for life or until remarriage.
- Additional compensation at one-sixth (1/6) of the AWW is payable for one or more children. If there is no widow or widower, 1/2 of the AWW is paid for one child, or two-thirds (2/3) of the AWW if there are two or more children. Benefit payments to children terminate when they reach age 18 but may be extended to age 23 if the beneficiary is a full-time student.
- Death benefits may be paid to an adult "child" who is totally disabled and incapable of self-support.
Longshoreman and harbor workers risk their lives each day while working hard to unload and load cargo on ships. While work-related injuries and fatalities occur often, the Longshoreman Act protects workers and their families if unfortunate events do occur. If you are a longshoreman, you know how important it is to protect yourself and your family.