Waterfront employers have a significant disadvantage when hiring. Delivered by an obscure rule in the Longshore Act referred to as the “last responsible maritime employer”.
Dating back to 1955, the rule makes the last Maritime Employer who exposes and employee to a particular “injurious stimuli” responsible for all the employee’s injuries. When stated simply, that does not sound too bad. But, suppose you hire someone who has worked in a noisy environment for many years, and then works for you for a week. Even if the environment is less noisy, his claim for hearing loss would be yours completely! Add to that, even if the employee then goes to work on a land based job, the emphasis switches to the word “Maritime” and even then, the claim remains yours.
Even scarier is the cumulative soft tissue injury! Even if the job is more sedentary!
So how do you overcome this? These few simple steps will help:
- Start with a Job Description – If you do not have time to write one from scratch, there are many good templates offered through the Trade Associations or online that you can easily customize. The physical needs of that job must be included. Things like:
- Must be able to lift 25lbs
- Job will require long periods of standing…(Be careful to follow ADA rules. Use one of the online guides or an attorney)
- Make sure the applicant has had a chance to review the Job Description. Then a great question is, “Is there anything that would stop you from performing the job described?” a simple yes or no question.
- A post offer, pre-start medical evaluation really helps. The key here is to find a doctor who will test to the physical requirements of the position. These simple steps are a minimal cost to help protect against a huge long term claim potential.
The more new hires, the more this problem multiplies.
This advice is of course not legal advice. You should always consult an experienced attorney who can review your particular circumstances and the Federal, State, and local laws applicable to your business, and provide you specific guidance before implementing any such programs.
You want qualified, experienced employees, they can be a tremendous asset to your business. But, do not also let them be your next big claim, especially when it does not really even belong to you!