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The Defense Base Act

Why It's So Important

How the DBA Affects You

The Defense Base Act (DBA) was established in 1941 to protected workers on military bases outside the United States.


Overseas federal, military, and public works contractors are subject to the same workers' compensation rules—including the same insurance requirements and schedules of benefits for affected workers—as maritime firms covered by the Longshore and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act (LHWCA).


As an employer, it is your responsibility to buy insurance or to self-insure injuries sustained by workers covered in the DBA.

Protecting defense contractors is our specialty.

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The DBA is an extension of the LHWCA, which was passed in 1927 to implement the uniformity of works' compensation benefits available to longshoremen and harbor workers from injuries that occur on the navigable waters throughout the United States.

The Rules of the LHWCA apply to the DBA in regard to the following:

Compensation Rates

Medical benefits

Filing Times

Schedule for permanent loss


Rules of evidence and submission


What You Need To Know As An Employer

As an employer, it is your responsibility to buy insurance or to self-insure injuries sustained by workers covered in the Defense Base Act. An amendment was added in 1958 to clarify that service contracts, never those which do not directly provide for "construction, alteration, removal or repair," are included in the definition of public work.

Who/What is Covered by the Defense Base Act?

Any defense base acquired from any foreign government

Public work outside the United States not covered under (3).

Lands occupied or used by the United States for military purposes outside the continental United States.

Contract outside the United States approved and financed by the United States.

Public work in any Territory or possession under a contract with the United States.

Welfare or similar services outside the United States for troops authorized by the Department of Defense.

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Zone of Special Danger Doctrine

The DBA applies to injuries and deaths that arise out of and in the course of employment abroad. Under the "Zone of Special Danger" doctrine, injuries and deaths that occur outside of regularly assigned job duties or work hours may be covered.

Because overseas workers are far away from families and friends, courts of law have ruled that recreational and social activities are in different circumstances from employees working at home.

Therefore, personal activities of a social or recreational nature must be considered as incident to the overseas employment relationship, and injuries that occur as a result of those activities may be covered under the Zone of Special Danger doctrine.

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