Construction workers are always at the forefront of building and installing new technologies enhancing humanity. Wind farm technology built onshore and installed off- shore is the new boon for overcoming global warming and providing clean energy. Seamen, seafarers and other mariners are being called upon to transport and maintain, along with construction workers, to build, operate, maintain and repair the enormous spinning turbines, and lay and maintain the cables transporting ashore this clean energy. Unfortunately, there are many risks associated with the commissioning and maintenance of offshore wind power stations, including the potential for lifelong injury or accidental death.
Whether you build these energy marvels or sail them to their sites, you are entitled to certain benefits—including the right to fair compensation if you’re hurt on the job. If you’ve suffered an injury related to the construction, operation or repair of a wind energy generation facility, the dedicated legal team at Hofmann & Schweitzer can explain your next steps at no cost to you. Call us at 1-800-3-MAY-DAY (800-362-9329) to learn more about these rights.
Wind Generation Requires Numerous Types of Professional Workers
The successful construction, installation and maintenance of wind turbines depends on various professionals, each one contributing to the fabrication and operation of the offshore wind facility, and getting it, and workers, to the installation site. These employees face the unique hazards of their occupations, but also the inherent dangers of working in dangerous construction, and maritime operation sites on the open waters..
Workers needed to bring a wind farm online include:
Wind farm construction and maintenance use specialized offshore wind support vessels or crew transfer vessels (CTVs). Since these ships ferry personnel and equipment between wind farm energy generation facilities and local ports. The vessels have to be light and nimble and maintain their stability in rough, congested waters. Mariners assigned to a CTV will transport the equipment offshore, supply and service wind facilities, all the time facing the perils of the sea, such as falling cargo, slipping and falling, or even drowning.
Maritime Construction Workers, such as Welders, Dockbuilders, Divers and Underwater Welders
They perform highly-skilled work, melting and fusing metal from the surface down to the sea bed. Divers are required at each stage of the construction process, from foundation installations to final safety assessments, and are called upon throughout the wind turbine's life to make repairs. Dockbuilders will build cofferdams to lay the foundations to support the structures.
Water and electricity don't mix, making power generation at sea a risky prospect. Electricians face the daily perils of electrocution or electric shock as they wire the wind turbine generator to the power grid. Maritime electricians may also be skilled divers, allowing them to perform the hazardous procedure of connecting wires and cables underwater.
Wind Turbines may be partially constructed onshore, then hoisted into position on their supports using a crane. These cranes lift enormous segments of the tower, long spinning blades, and other heavy machinery hundreds of feet into the air—directly above workers on the deck. Maritime workers can suffer various injuries as the crane unexpectedly drops its cargo, collapses, or swings into a nearby object.
Laborers may be called in at all stages of construction to prepare the site, load and unload materials, lay the cable, build the infrastructure, receive and assemble tower sections, and ensure strong connections between the generators and the power station. Much of the fabrication and assembly of offshore wind turbines will be done at shoreside facilities. For instance, in New York, a mammoth construction and fabrication site is being built at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal to serve as an offshore “Wind Port”.
There, companies such as Equinor and BP will construct the wind turbines being installed in the numerous recently leased wind production centers to be installed in the Atlantic Ocean off of New Jersey, New York and Long Island.
Which Compensation Program Pays Benefits for Onshore Construction and Offshore Installation and Maintenance of Wind Generation Workers Injuries?
Employers have a duty to secure adequate coverage for any illness, injuries, or death of their employees, or be personally liable for same. Onshore construction of, and transportation to and maintenance of offshore wind turbine farms require a myriad of workers. There are several overlapping, and often mutually exclusive compensation schemes that will affect these employees’ compensation entitlements which must be correctly analyzed and applied.
Your claim may be covered under federal maritime law or a state workers compensation law. Choosing the correct law to apply will allow you to obtain the maximum benefit to which you are entitled. Under some of the compensation schemes, your employer or a third-party, such as a general contractor, a prime contractor, a construction manager or other special employer could be held accountable for negligence, and unseaworthiness in addition to payment for medical bills and lost income.
Many of the workers fabricating the wind turbine structures on shore will be covered by state workers compensation laws, or potentially the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (“LHWCA”). Importantly, as to personal injuries and wrongful deaths, New York Labor Laws Sections 200, 240(1) and 241(6) will apply to provide legal remedies against third-parties causing injuries and deaths at shoreside facilities. They further could be covered by federal OSHA regulations and New York Industrial Code regulations.
Depending on the job, the location and the work being performed, the injured worker may be entitled to benefits under a federal compensation statute, described below, which is for maritime workers not considered as seaman.
Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).
This federal law provides for employees who work maritime construction occupations but are not considered as seamen, because they are not assigned to a specific vessel or fleet of vessels, and mainly do landside-related construction work. Anyone who works next to the water on a pier, dock, wharf, or terminal might get workers’ compensation under the LHWCA if their injuries occurred on navigable waters of the United States or adjoining areas used to load, unload, or build a vessel. Similar to state workers’ compensation, employees covered by LHWCA cannot sue their employers, but they can file third-party liability lawsuits against another parties involved in the accident.
Deckhands, merchant mariners, and other maritime workers.
Those laboring on the ships, barges and tugs transporting workers and materials to the ocean sites may be entitled to injury compensation under one or more of the following:
To file a claim under the Jones Act, you must be considered a seaman, or a crew member assigned to a vessel in navigation who spends most of their time in the service of the ship. Under this act, crewmembers have the right to collect payment for medical care and lost wages but can also sue their employers for negligence. The Jones Act will likely apply to vessel traffic to, from, and between wind turbines and nearby ports, but it may take the help of an experienced attorney to get you all of the benefits you’re entitled to. Seafarers are also entitled to benefits under the General Maritime Law for injuries caused by vessel or crew unseaworthiness. Lastly, no matter whose fault causes an injury, all seafarers are entitled to Maintenance and Cure benefits, an amount of compensation to pay for an injured seaman’s food and lodging while recuperating plus all of his related medical bills.
General Maritime Law.
There are other aspects of the general maritime law that can provide maritime workers with avenues to obtain compensation for injuries. You need to consult with a qualified maritime attorney to learn what those benefits might be.
Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA).
This allows claims for the benefit of a maritime worker’s family if the worker is injured on the “high seas” essentially more than a “marine league” (about 3 miles) off shore.
Maritime Construction and Transportation Claims
Are covered by an intricate and complex group of sometimes overlapping, and sometimes mutually exclusive set of laws. These statutes have strict application guidelines, and specific timelines for filing claims. You need to have your attorney analyze what law applies immediately after an event happens. For instance, if a state or municipal entity is involved, you may have to make a Notice of Claim within 90 days of the incident, or you might be precluded from ever bringing a claim.
Let Our Construction and Jones Act Attorneys Advise You on What Steps Necessarily Need to Be Taken to Protect and Assert Your Rights if You Have Been Injured.
If someone you love has been injured during wind generation facility construction, transportation, maintenance, repair or operation, you should contact our experienced construction and maritime injury attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible. Call us at 1-800-3-MAY-DAY (800-362-9329) or fill out our online contact form