How the Coast Guard and OSHA Work Together to Protect Your Rights With a Memorandum of Understanding
Working as a seaman can be dangerous, but it is important to realize that there are many different organizations that have your best interests in mind. For example, you may not realize that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Coast Guard have a Memorandum of Understanding. This memorandum clearly sets the boundaries of the authority of the Coast Guard and OSHA in prescribing and enforcing standards or regulations affecting the safety and health of seamen aboard inspected and certified vessels.
The Coast Guard is the main federal agency that is responsible for the safety and health of maritime workers who are aboard inspected vessels. They have standards and regulations in place when it comes to the working conditions on these vessels; the details can be found at 46 C.F.R. Chapter 1, and in the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Manual and its Navigation and Vessel Inspection Circulars.
OSHA has the authority to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women under the OSH Act of 1970. However, due to the Coast Guard’s federal authority, OSHA cannot enforce the OSH Act with respect to the working conditions of seamen aboard inspected vessels. They can, however, retain their authority to protect maritime workers from discrimination of any kind. OSHA can require vessel owners to post a notice that informs employees of their right to complain about working conditions to the Coast Guard, OSHA, or the employer and to be free from retaliatory discrimination.
OSHA can handle complaints they receive about retaliatory actions against employees, but if they receive complaints about anything else—like unsafe or hazardous working conditions—then those will be referred to the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard will take over the responsibility of investigating the complaint and then taking whatever actions are necessary.
It is essential for seamen to understand their rights, especially when they are injured while on the job. If you found this article to be helpful, please share it with anyone you know who works in the maritime industry.