A longshoreman is a person who loads and unloads cargo onto ships at a dock or port. Also called dockers or dock workers, longshoremen make up an integral part of the workforce in the shipping and receiving industry. The work is outdoors during all types of weather. Shifts are often during the day but dock workers often work at night, on weekends, and during holidays.
The dock is a dangerous environment where workers handle large, heavy equipment. There is high vehicle traffic with semi-trucks, passenger vehicles, and powered industrial equipment constantly moving around.
The job of the longshoreman involves strenuous physical labor. They do a lot of heavy lifting, are exposed to hazardous materials, and perform repetitive motions. As a result, they are not only at risk of being injured by the equipment but also from the wear-and-tear on their bodies that happens over time.
For many dock workers, the incentive for doing a dangerous, dirty job is the promise of high pay. Many make more than $80,000 each year, but not until they have years of experience. Unfortunately, for thousands, the hazards of the job lead to serious injury or death each year. All it takes is a single mistake to cause a disaster. The job requires different types of loading equipment that should be well-maintained at all times. The workers should be carefully trained so they know the best techniques for handling all types of cargo. If the employer cuts corners or fails to meet any of these specifications, it puts everyone on the dock at risk of serious injury.
How Can I Become a Longshoreman?
If you think a job as a longshore worker is right for you, the first step is to understand exactly what the job requires. You don’t need a college degree and you can start working when you are 18 years of age. You do need a valid driver’s license and you should have experience operating and repairing heavy equipment. But when you’re just starting out, the type of work available to you might be restrictive. Keep in mind when looking for work, employers who hire non-union dock workers aren’t as likely to look out for their workers.
Step 1: Get a Transportation Worker ID Card
You must obtain a TWIC card proving you are certified to work on a dock. Schedule an appointment with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and take all of your identifying documents with you. You’ll have to complete a questionnaire and pay a fee to receive your card.
Step 2: Become an ILWU Member
The union’s website will help you understand the enrollment process and the cost of fees. Although there are other unions that serve longshoremen in other areas, the ILWU serves those along the West Coast. You might have to wait for several months or even years for an open enrollment period during which you can apply.
Some dock workers begin by working as “casual workers” who don’t have union membership. If you don’t want to wait for months or years to join the ILWU before starting your career, you can still get hired. However, you will get picked last whenever work assignments are made. You will have an erratic work schedule and no guarantee of hours. If you keep up with the times that more shifts are available, you’re more likely to get assigned. Once you show up, you’ll have to wait in line and wait until the shifts are all assigned to see if you get work that day.
Step 3: Gain As Much Experience As Possible
If you get enough experience, you will achieve status as an “identified casual.” This requires a high level of persistence on your part. While you still won’t be a union member, it does give you a higher status and increases your chances of getting hired for more shift assignments.
Step 4: Become a Union Member
Once you join the ILWU, you are a real longshoreman who is entitled to the benefits that membership entails. Getting shifts becomes easier and you will receive health insurance coverage, holidays, sick days, and paid vacations. The high pay and benefits are often the main reasons that people work to become a longshoreman. It is grueling work that isn’t right for everyone. Before you start the process to become a longshore worker, make sure you can meet the physical demands. Also, learn what you need to know to determine if it’s a good career for you.
How Dangerous Is the Job of a Longshoreman?
Longshoremen have some of the highest injury, illness, and fatality rates of any other type of worker in this country. Many join the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) to protect their rights while they are employed and after retirement. Union benefits include programs that make traveling more affordable. They help workers get an affordable mortgage for their homes. They offer a range of insurance plans including supplemental life and accident insurance plans. But when longshoremen have serious or fatal injuries, these programs don’t pay their bills or support their families.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act Law (LHWCA)
The LHWCA is a federal workers’ compensation program designed to compensate longshore workers, shipyard workers, and other maritime workers who work on or adjacent to U.S. waters. LHWCA applies to workers who usually aren’t eligible for state workers’ benefits. The Act doesn’t provide compensation for sailors or other workers who qualify for compensation under the Jones Act or the Merchant Marine Act.
LHWCA works like regular workers’ comp in some ways while providing for the special needs of these high-risk workers. For example, coverage is no-fault. You don’t have to sue your employer or prove they were at fault. If you get injured while working or because of your job, the Act pays your compensation.
LHWCA benefits include payment for medical care and vocational rehabilitation services. If you get injured during a job-related activity, they’ll pay for the therapy you need to get back to normal or as close to normal as possible.
Some common injuries a longshoreman might receive require extensive medical treatment. They can impact their ability to work for the rest of their lives. Blindness, traumatic brain injury, amputation, and paralysis are just some of the conditions that have a lifelong impact. Those such as cancer or drowning affect the length of and/or the quality of life. LHWCA is there to protect longshore workers when they need it. Before you can receive compensation, you must first understand the process for filing a claim.
1. File Within the Time Limits
In most cases, you must report your injuries to your employer within 30 days if they cause you to miss one or more shifts. There are exceptions to this rule, including…
– Although the injury occurs on the job, you aren’t incapacitated by it immediately. In this case, you must report your injury within 30 days of knowing your injury caused you to miss work.
– A longshoreman is exposed to hazardous substances. If you develop a disease due to your work, you have up to a year to file for benefits. If you are aware of the disease before that time, report it immediately. All courts don’t side with the exceptions instead of the rule.
2. Submit a Notice of Employee Injury or Death Report
Request an LS-201 or LS-203 Notice of Employee Injury or Death report from your employer. Explain in the report what happened, where it occurred, and the reason for your injury. Keep three copies of the completed report in your personal files. This form protects you in case your employer doesn’t acknowledge your injury. Submit the form to the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP.)
If you fail to send the report within the 30-day period, submit it anyway. If you have a good reason for missing the deadline, they may accept it anyway.
3. Wait for Your Compensation to Arrive
If you receive compensation after submitting your claim to the OWCP, you don’t need to do anything else. If the OWCP denies your claim, you’ll need to fill out a Longshoreman Claim and request a conference. This is the first step towards resolving your claim before it advances to a formal hearing. Mail the Longshoreman Claim to your nearest Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs.
4. Wait for the Claims Examiners’ Recommendation
The claims examiner will mail you a written recommendation about how to proceed. Once you receive it, you can request a hearing. These hearings usually occur in front of a federal administrative law judge. The judge will hear discussions on your issues such as the severity of your injuries and how your injuries occurred.
Filing a Lawsuit
While the LHWCA allows for no-fault compensation, some extensions of the law provide other types of coverage. The Longshore Act allows injured longshore workers and other port workers to sue ship owners for negligence.
Winning your case depends on the extent of your injuries and who was responsible for them. Sometimes, employers cut corners and fail to use the right equipment for the job. They may not provide the maintenance or safety equipment required by law to protect you.
Co-workers can also be negligent in the way they use the equipment or leave items lying around. Sometimes longshoremen are exposed to fires, explosions, or electrocution. They might slip and fall on a wet dock or one that isn’t properly coated. Crane or forklift accidents, drowning, and exposure to hazardous chemicals are also common. In a second, things can go from normal to extremely hazardous.
The environment that a longshoreman works in is one of the most dangerous in the country. The injuries they suffer are more likely to be severe. They may require surgery, hospitalization, physical therapy, and ongoing care. Their injuries can result in a permanent disability that requires a lifetime of medications and treatments. Getting compensation for these injuries is the only hope an injured longshore worker has.
When to Get Legal Representation
All areas of maritime law are complex. Most of us don’t know our rights or our options if we get injured at work. Sometimes there’s a lot more riding on the outcome when the injured party is a longshoreman.
The best time to talk about your case with a maritime personal injury attorney is right after your injury occurs. Schedule an initial consultation so they can discuss the circumstances of your case with you. The deadlines that apply to filing a claim are very important. Failing to abide by the time limits could result in your losing your only source of compensation for your work-related injuries.
It’s also important to talk with a maritime lawyer with in-depth knowledge and experience in the area of maritime law. The rules for people who work on or near the waterways are different than those for us on land. A longshoreman has rights that don’t pertain to all other areas of employment. They put their lives on the line every day that they go to work and so are entitled to a unique set of rights.
When you go to your consultation, take all of the documents you have accumulated to that point. Take a copy of the claim if you’ve already filed one. Take the documents showing your current medical treatment. Include any recommendations by your doctor for future treatment or tests you need.
The sooner you have legal representation, the more time your attorney will have to build your case. He can provide tips on important details like how to choose the right doctor. Once you choose a doctor, changing to another one is a long, difficult process. You want to get it right the first time.
There are several maritime laws designed to protect workers in a range of jobs on the U.S. waters. Your attorney knows which laws apply to your case. Get the full benefit of everything available to you.
Naylor Law Can Help
Naylor Law offers expert legal representation for maritime workers. The attorneys have more than 100 years of combined experience and a strong desire to get justice for their injured clients. If you are an injured longshoreman, contact Naylor Law today. Schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and to design a plan for the future.