The Jones Act and Seaman Status
The Jones Act is the cornerstone of U.S. maritime law for commercial seamen. But
just who is a seaman? A seaman (that means man or woman) is a member of the
crew of a vessel, or they are assigned to the vessel. Their duties have to contribute
to the function of the vessel, and they need to have a connection to the vessel in
navigation. The duration of a maritime employee’s connection and nature of their
activities aboard the vessel also needs to demonstrate that they’re a member of the
crew.

The Jones Act covers commercial mariners. That means commercial mariners of
kinds… container ship crews, ferry crews, commercial fishermen, tanker
deckhands…are entitled to legal rights under negligence law. In addition to
negligence that leads of a maritime employee’s injuries, a maritime worker has
rights stemming from an unseaworthy vessel. Unseaworthiness is a maritime law
term meaning that the vessel is not reasonably fit for its intended use. Injuries that
are covered include physical injuries from slips and falls, being hit by falling objects,
or being exposed to hazardous chemicals.

In including hazardous chemicals and toxic substances, the Jones Act includes
injuries from exposure to hazardous solvens, such as degreasing solvents and
other toxic substances. Commercial seamen are familiar with the dangers of these
chemicals when used in confined spaces. A seaman can be exposed to chemicals
containing benzene, xylene and other solvents when entering confined holds and
spaces in chemical barges when entering to clean or inspect as a tankerman.

There are other chemical or toxic substances that can present a hazard in the
marine workplace. Many companies operate new and safe vessels today. However,
there may still be older vessels dating back to the 50’s or 60’s that can have
asbestos components in the way of asbestos insulation that had been installed at a
time before shipyards stopped installing the substance. When it comes to asbestos
and other respiratory hazards (where the injury can include asbestosis,
mesothelioma, lung cancer or other respiratory disease from asbestos exposure),
these can be a  concern on older vessels. In terms of legal rights, exposure to
asbestos, silica, beryllium, manganese, lead, dioxins, PCB’s, benzene, toluene,
xylene or other such substances results in the same rights of recovery under the
Jones Act as if the seaman fell down a broken ladder. Some of the toxic hazardous
might be an issue if the vessel is one of the older vessels picked up at a good price
on an auction site. Sometimes such vessels might be sold because of the
problems with ridding them of all the toxic substances such as asbestos, silica,
and other insulating materials.







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U.S. Department of Labor - These are contact
numbers for Dept of Labor Offices that maintain
regional employment, unemployment, wage
information.

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The Jones Act and Seaman Status
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