Oil Rig Worker Killed in Forklift Accident While Working at Onshore Facility Entitled to Benefits Under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act

An employee of an oil exploration and extraction business who spent 98 percent of his time working on an oil rig was killed in a forklift accident while working at the employer’s onshore facility. His wife filed for workers’ compensation benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) extension of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OSCLA), extending benefits to employees killed or injured “as the result of operations conducted on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).”


The U.S. Supreme Court held the OCSLA provision extending the LHWCA does not require that the injury occur on the outer Continental Shelf. Rather, the OCSLA extends the LHWCA workers' compensation coverage to any employee injury, regardless of where it happens, as long as it occurs “as the result of operations conducted on the outer Continental Shelf.” Also, the provision does not incorporate the LHWCA's requirement that the injury occur “upon the navigable waters” of the United States. The provision does extend coverage to an employee who can establish a substantial nexus between the injury and the employer's extractive operations on the OCS.


The court noted that whether an employee injured while performing an off-OCS task qualifies—like Valladolid, who died while tasked with onshore scrap metal consolidation—is a question that will depend on the individual circumstances of each case. The Ninth Circuit remanded the case for the Benefits Review Board to apply the “substantial-nexus” test in the first instance, and the US Supreme Court agreed with that disposition. The case was remanded to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings consistent with the opinion. See: Pacific Operators Offshore, LLP v. Valladolid, 2012 WL 75045, 12 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 416, 23 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 55 (U.S. Jan 11, 2012) (not designated for publication).