In the vast expanses of the Gulf of Mexico, where offshore oil rigs dot the horizon and maritime operations hum with activity, safety is paramount. Louisiana, a state intimately tied to the oil and gas industry, has taken a significant step to enhance the safety of offshore workers by implementing a law mandating the use of locator beacons. This legislation, known as “Jacob’s Law,” represents a crucial measure to protect the lives of those toiling in one of the most challenging work environments on Earth.

Jacob’s Law was so named in memory of Jacob Matt, an offshore worker who died in 2008. His body was not located for several days following the incident. Matt’s family believes that a locator beacon may have saved his life. They have taken the fight for locator beacons personally since 2008 and have been instrumental in helping shape the new law.

If you or someone you love works in an offshore environment, keep reading to learn more about the locator beacon law. If you have questions about your rights after an offshore incident or injury, contact the maritime offshore injury attorneys at Kherkher Garcia.

What are Locator Beacons?

Offshore work is inherently hazardous. The individuals who brave the waters face numerous risks, ranging from adverse weather conditions to equipment malfunctions. In the event of an emergency such as a vessel capsizing or a worker falling overboard, swift and effective rescue operations are critical. This is where locator beacons come into play.

Locator beacons, also known as Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) or Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs), are compact devices designed to transmit distress signals in emergency situations. These beacons emit radio signals that can be picked up by satellites, enabling search and rescue teams to pinpoint the location of individuals in distress swiftly. By wearing these beacons, offshore workers significantly increase their chances of being rescued promptly in the event of an emergency.

One of the drawbacks to similar legislation in the past has been the price of locator beacons, which could cost as much as $2,000 each. The price has changed dramatically as technology and availability has changed, now averaging $200 each. Either price point would seem an insignificant amount when compared to the value of a human life.

Background on the Locator Beacon Law

Louisiana’s decision to enact legislation mandating the use of locator beacons among offshore workers is a proactive response to the inherent risks associated with maritime work. The law reflects a commitment to prioritize worker safety and mitigate the potential consequences of accidents or emergencies that may occur at sea.

One of the key provisions of the Louisiana law is the requirement for all offshore workers to wear approved locator beacons while traveling to or from an offshore vessel. This mandate applies to individuals working on oil rigs, supply vessels, and other offshore structures within Louisiana’s jurisdictional waters. By making locator beacons mandatory equipment, the law ensures that every worker has access to a reliable means of signaling for help in an emergency.

The use of locator beacons is not only beneficial for individual workers but also enhances the effectiveness of search and rescue operations conducted by the Coast Guard and other response agencies. With precise information about the location of distressed individuals provided by these beacons, rescue teams can mobilize more efficiently, reducing response times and increasing the likelihood of successful outcomes.

Moreover, the implementation of the locator beacon law fosters a culture of safety within the offshore industry. By mandating the use of this essential safety equipment, Louisiana sends a clear message that the wellbeing of offshore workers is non-negotiable. This emphasis on safety underscores the state’s commitment to protecting its workforce and upholding the highest standards of occupational health and safety.

How Effective are Locator Beacons?

The effectiveness of locator beacons in saving lives cannot be overstated. Countless incidents have demonstrated the crucial role these devices play in maritime search and rescue operations. Whether it’s a lone fisherman stranded at sea or a crew of offshore workers facing imminent danger, locator beacons have proven time and again to be invaluable tools for summoning help when it’s needed most.

Critics of the law may argue that mandating the use of locator beacons imposes additional costs and administrative burdens on employers and workers alike. However, the investment in safety is ultimately a wise one. The potential cost of not having locator beacons in an emergency far outweighs the expenses associated with implementing and maintaining these devices. Furthermore, prioritizing safety can yield long-term benefits for companies in terms of improved morale, reduced accident rates, and enhanced reputation within the industry.

Locator Beacon Law Sets Standards

In addition to requiring offshore workers to wear locator beacons, the Louisiana law also stipulates certain standards for the devices themselves. Approved locator beacons must meet specified criteria for:

  • Reliability
  • Durability
  • Performance

The standards will ensure the devices are capable of functioning effectively in the harsh marine environment. Furthermore, the law mandates regular testing and maintenance of locator beacons to verify their operational status and readiness for use in emergencies.

In What Situations Would a Locator Beacon be Helpful?

Locator beacons are invaluable tools for offshore rescue in a wide range of emergency situations. Here are some scenarios where locator beacons can be particularly helpful, or could save lives:

Man Overboard

In the event of a worker falling overboard from an offshore platform or vessel, a locator beacon can immediately transmit a distress signal, providing rescuers with the precise location of the individual in the water. This enables swift search and rescue operations, even in challenging conditions such as rough seas or low visibility.

Vessel Capsizing or Sinking

If a supply vessel, crew boat, or other maritime vessel experiences a capsizing or sinking, crew members equipped with locator beacons can activate their devices to signal their distress and aid rescuers in locating survivors amidst the wreckage or debris field.

Medical Emergencies

In cases where offshore workers experience sudden medical emergencies, such as heart attacks, injuries, or severe illnesses, locator beacons can facilitate rapid evacuation by alerting emergency response teams to the need for immediate assistance. This is especially critical in remote offshore locations where access to medical facilities may be limited.

Equipment Failure

If essential equipment on an offshore platform fails, resulting in a hazardous situation or the need for emergency evacuation, locator beacons worn by workers can expedite the deployment of rescue resources and ensure the safe evacuation of personnel from the affected area.

Adverse Weather Conditions

Offshore operations are susceptible to adverse weather conditions such as hurricanes, tropical storms, or severe thunderstorms, which can pose significant risks to personnel and infrastructure. In the event of an emergency evacuation due to inclement weather, locator beacons help rescuers locate individuals who may be stranded or in distress at sea.

Fire or Explosion

In the event of a fire or explosion on an offshore platform or vessel, locator beacons enable workers to quickly alert rescue teams to their location, even if visibility is impaired by smoke or flames. This facilitates timely evacuation and minimizes the risk of casualties.

Lost or Disoriented Workers

Offshore environments can be vast and complex, making it easy for workers to become disoriented or separated from their colleagues. Locator beacons provide a means for individuals to signal for help and assist rescuers in locating them, whether they are adrift at sea or stranded on a remote part of the platform.

Piracy or Security Threats

In regions where piracy or security threats are a concern, offshore workers equipped with locator beacons can signal for assistance in the event of an attack or hostage situation. This enables prompt intervention by security forces and enhances the safety and security of personnel working in high-risk areas.

By providing a reliable means of signaling distress and transmitting accurate location information, locator beacons play a crucial role in mitigating risks and saving lives in the challenging and unpredictable environment of the open sea.

Have Questions about an Offshore Injury?

As maritime activities continue to expand and evolve, initiatives like Louisiana’s locator beacon law serve as crucial safeguards against the inherent risks of working at sea. Unfortunately, there are many offshore workers who do not yet have access to these valuable tools. These workers are vulnerable to the hazards of the offshore industry without an additional means of support.

If you have questions about an offshore injury or your rights as an offshore worker, Kherkher Garcia can help. We have more than 30 years of experience helping offshore workers understand and protect their legal rights. To find out how we can help you, contact us for a free consultation by calling 713-333-1030, or by completing our online form.


Schedule a free Consultation

Kevin Haynes

Kevin Haynes

Firm Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Firm Partner Kevin Haynes. Kevin has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 15 years. He has won $150 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. Kevin is powerful and effective in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been seriously injured at work or on the road.

Learn moreRead more articles