Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA)

The 19th and 20th centuries yielded the United States’ primary natural resources – crude oil and natural gas.  Though exploration began on land, through innovative technology, oil and gas exploration expanded to the oceans and the Gulf of Mexico.  In 1953, the United States Congress passed the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) to protect workers involved in offshore oil and gas exploration.  OCSLA defined the boundaries of the Outer Continental Shelf and the Secretary of Interior was tasked to oversee and administer the mineral exploration and development on the Outer Continental Shelf.

An important aspect of OCSLA is that the Act extends the same remedies provided to maritime workers under the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act (LHWCA) to offshore workers who have been injured while working on the Outer Continental Shelf.  To qualify for coverage under OCSLA, the worker must satisfy the following two requirements:

  1. The offshore worker must be engaged in “exploring for”, “developing”, “removing”, or “transporting” natural resources; and
  2. The injury actually occurs while working on the Outer Continental Shelf.

Offshore workers injured while employed on fixed platforms, tension-leg platforms, jack-up rigs (attached to the seabed), and other stationary rigs are generally covered by OCSLA.  However, OSCLA does not cover government employees or seamen.    Service hands, wireline operators, welders, etc. working on fixed or stationary platforms located on the Outer Continental Shelf (beyond 3 nautical miles from the U.S. coast) are covered by OCSLA.

Like the LHWCA, OCSLA affords offshore workers compensation if they are injured, disabled, or contract an occupational disease due to an on-the-job incident.  OCSLA allows an employee, or the family of a deceased employee, to recover compensation for medical expenses, rehabilitation services, and lost wages from their employer.  Additionally, OCSLA provides a cause of action for negligence against a vessel or other third party under either state or general maritime law if such negligence was the cause of the injury.  Such third-party cases generally arise in situations where a worker is injured while performing work on board the platform (welding, maintenance, etc.), transferring from a crew/supply boat to the platform (swing rope, basket, etc.), or riding as a passenger on board a crew/supply boat to a platform.

The determination of OCSLA status, and whether your case falls within OCSLA, is based on a case-by-case analysis.  If you have been injured while working on a fixed or stationary offshore platform located on the Outer Continental Shelf, or want to learn more about whether your case falls under OCSLA, contact Gilman & Allison, LLP for a free consultation and evaluation.

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