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Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation (DLHWC)

OWCP News Release

March 24, 2011

Defense Base Act Coverage for US Government Contractors Working in Japan

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11, 2011, various agencies of the United States may utilize the services of private contractors to provide humanitarian and other assistance as part of the global relief effort there. Workers for such private contractors are covered under the Defense Base Act (DBA) (except for certain specified instances where the Department of Labor has granted a waiver). Agency contracting personnel and private contractors should ensure that the proper DBA insurance is in place before workers are deployed overseas.

Below are several Frequently Asked Questions about the DBA. For more detailed information, please visit the Defense Base Act Page at Contact us at


1. Who is covered under the DBA?

  • All workers employed to perform work on any contracts with any U.S. government agency, including construction and service contracts and contracts approved and funded by the U.S. under the Foreign Assistance Act, if the contract is performed outside of the United States;
  • All employees engaged in such employment, regardless of nationality, including U.S. citizens and residents, host country nationals (local hires), and third country nationals (individuals hired from another country to work in the host country), are covered under the Act;
  • All workers employed by all levels of contract, including sub-contracts and subordinate contracts, are covered under the Act. A contractor that fails to ensure that the employees of its sub-contractor have appropriate coverage may be responsible for its sub-contractors' employees;
  • See the waiver section below for exceptions.

2. How does a Contractor know if DBA Coverage is Required for its Workers in Japan during the Relief Effort?

Unless a waiver has been granted to the contracting agency, every private contractor with employees engaged in work described in #1 above must secure DBA insurance, whether the contract specifies it or not.

Ask the Contracting Officer whether a DBA waiver has been granted to the agency. If there is no valid waiver, DBA coverage is required.

3. How Does a Contractor Obtain DBA Insurance?

The OWCP is responsible for the authorization of insurance carriers and self-insurance of employers. Over one hundred insurance carriers have been authorized to write Defense Base Act coverage. View a list of the currently authorized insurance carriers.

Currently five major insurance carriers provide most of the Defense Base Act insurance coverage. They are ACE USA Companies, Allied World Assurance, Chartis Insurance, CNA and Zurich.

4. What is a DBA Waiver

The Secretary of Labor may waive the application of the Defense Base Act for any contract, work location, or class of employees upon the written request of the head of any department or other agency of the United States. However, even when a waiver is granted, DOL conditions the waiver such that it does not exempt from DBA coverage citizens of the U.S., legal residents of the U.S., or employees hired in the U.S .

When a waiver has been granted to an agency, only non-US employees working under contracts for that agency in the specified geographic location are not covered under the Defense Base Act. Furthermore, the waiver is also conditioned on the existence of an alternative workers' compensation program that provides benefits to the waived employees pursuant to applicable local law. If there is no local workers' compensation law, the waiver has no effect and local and foreign nationals working under a U.S. contract are covered under the DBA.

5. Is There a DBA Waiver for Japan?

The Department of Labor has granted the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of State (DOS) a DBA waiver for contracts for work performed in Japan.

The Department of Labor has not granted a DBA waiver to any other US government agency for work performed in Japan. All non DOD and DOS contractor employers with employees deployed in Japan must purchase DBA insurance coverage for those employees.

6. Is Radiation Exposure covered under DBA ?

Yes, the DBA covers all injuries, occupational diseases, or infections that arise out of or result from employment exposures. An injury or illness causally related to radiation exposure is covered under the DBA, even if the medical condition is not diagnosed for many years after the employment. In order to qualify for benefits, the employee is required to establish employment under a US government contract, that he was harmed by the employment, and that the employment conditions were such that they could have caused the harm.

7. Where should a DBA claim be filed?

Claim for injuries arising from employment under a US government contract in Japan should be submitted to the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs district office in Honolulu, Hawaii.