NMMA: Workers’ comp changes could affect boatbuilders

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The U.S. Department of Labor is proposing new regulations that implement amendments to the Longshore & Harbor Workers' Compensation Act and will have a direct impact on recreational boatbuilders and repairers, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Since 1984, the law has excluded from coverage people employed to build, repair or dismantle any recreational vessel under 65 feet in length. In 2009, Congress removed the 65-foot limitation for repair work only.

The proposal will implement that change by revising the definition of recreational vessel in the law's program regulations. The definition change, as drafted, would affect boatbuilders and boat repairers.

The new definition of recreational vessel attempts to exclude non-recreational uses (e.g., passenger, commercial). As crafted, this new definition could create problems for manufacturers who are producing boats intended for the recreational market, but have no way of knowing the retail purchaser's ultimate use, the NMMA said.

In addition, the Department of Labor has included a clarification that workers who perform qualifying maritime employment and excluded work are covered under the law.

In a letter to the NMMA, the department explained that "undefinedecause an employer may use a common work force to perform both excluded and non-excluded work, the proposed rule codifies existing case law holding that the LHWCA covers a worker so long as he or she engages in at least some maritime employment within the meaning of the statute and even if injured while performing excluded work."

Because of the potential impact of this proposal on boatbuilders, the NMMA has requested a 60-day extension of the comment period, which is now slated to end Oct. 18.

For information or to provide feedback for NMMA's comments, contact Cindy Squires at (202) 737-9766; csquires@nmma.org.

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