OSHA and Ship Safety

Another thread brought up a question for those in the law profession in our industry. I remember back in school learning that OSHA only had jurisdiction on ships when they were “on the blocks in a shipyard” and otherwise USCG was the authority for safety aboard vessels.

I’m feeling like my understanding may be flawed and I’m hoping someone with more experience (and preferably a JD) can shed some light on this for me.

I believe your understanding is correct. If for no other reason than nearly every ship out there would be fined to high hell by OSHA for nearly infinity violations.

The USCG enforcement of safety on ships is non-existent. Anybody that’s work in a large industrial facility on land at a reasonably safe company will shit themselves at sea.

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That’s the same thing I remember being taught. I think the answer is likely here and the authority is strictly as it relates to whistleblower statutes, the SPA being one of many:

OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of more than 20 whistleblower statutes protecting employees from retaliation for reporting violations of various workplace safety and health, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health insurance reform, motor vehicle safety, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, securities, tax, antitrust, and anti-money laundering laws and for engaging in other related protected activities.

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Might be more involved than that and whether the vessel is inspected or not may be a factor. Might be why subchapter M was viewed favorably by some…

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@jbtam99 Some crews on federal near coastal vessels are covered by OSHA.

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See this from a thread a few years ago:

All your safety are belong to coast guard.

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Did you use a Hungarian phrasebook to write this?

No, it’s a derivation of an OG Internet meme based on a funny bad Japanese translation.

(Look up “all your base are belong to us”.)


If I owned a shipping company or any company I would not worry about OSHA except how their citations might affect my insurance rate. OSHA’s fines are so low they could be taken out of petty cash and they have no ability to make any meaningful change in the workplace. They are a toothless tiger.


I basically agree with that.

I’ve never seen OSHA stick it’s nose in onboard.

As I recall the USCG and OSHA have an MOU that OSHA can regulate anything the USCG does not.

That’s why we have this ridiculous OSHA fall protection gear designed for construction sites a few minutes from 911 rescue services instead of the more appropriate harnesses like ocean racing sailors use.

Companies stupidly think they can hid behind “but it’s OSHA approved.”

On land, insurance drives safety. It’s that simple. Big signs with “4,000,000 work hours with no lost time” are put up for a reason.

I rekn’ few here have ever had to pay workman’s comp premiums. EMR (experience modification rate) can vary bigly with just a few minor incidents.

The question posed above appears to be focused on shipyards, so I’ll confine my response to that subject… As it was even before the OSH Act was signed into law (pre 1971, in the era wherein the Labor Standards Bureau still had jurisdiction over the occupational safety of all workers covered under the protections of the Longshoremen’s & Harborworker’s Compensation Act), the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Coast Guard have shared a concurrent jurisdiction aboard vessels being constructed or repaired at U.S. shipyards. To get a better sense of what OSHA safety & health standards have application to civilian workers employed at U.S. shipyards, here’s a link: https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1915