What is USL&H?

by Preston Cavignac, CPCU, CIC, CRM
There are a number of industries that require specific insurance knowledge to properly manage risk. Maritime and maritime-related industries are a few. Whether working near water, on a vessel, or in a related industry, specific laws may apply. Although there are many types of marine-related insurance products, the purpose of this blog is to review the United States Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (USL&H) to determine which businesses are subject to its law.

The United States Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act is a federal act that was enforced in 1927. Its original intent was to compensate certain maritime workers, including most dock workers, ship builders, stevedoring operations and other maritime workers not otherwise covered by the Jones Act for injuries or deaths that occur on or near navigable water. However, juries have ruled that its requirements go beyond the standard maritime businesses. Now, non-related industries could potentially be subject to the act.

In order to determine whether a business is subject to USL&H law, we have to look at our operation and determine if it satisfies the “Situs” and “Status” requirements. The “Situs” test relates to the physical location where the accident occurred. The accident which caused the injury must take place on, near, or adjacent to navigable water. This includes injuries that occur on piers, wharfs, dry docks, terminals, building ways, marine railways, or any area adjoining the water or near the water that is used to load, unload, repair, or build a vessel. The “Status” test relates to the type of work that the injured worker was performing at the time of the accident. The injured employee must be considered a maritime employee that is not covered by the Jones Act or is not a government worker. The term “employee” means any person engaged in maritime employment (subject to a number of exclusions). The issue with the “Situs” test is that the words “near” and “adjacent” are not defined. The issue with the “Status” test is that the words “maritime employment” and “maritime employee” are not defined.

Navigating USL&H requirements is difficult. It is not always clear which businesses are subject to its law. As a general rule of thumb, if a business is working on or near navigable water, that business should contact an insurance broker and/or attorney to determine if they are required to maintain USL&H coverage.