Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) and Workplace Disasters
Attorneys in the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) and Workplace Disasters Practice Group assist clients in complying with federal and state occupational safety and health laws and regulations and in responding to work-related injuries, illnesses and other catastrophic events.
In the OSHA context, we have handled numerous litigation matters before both the federal Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (“OSHRC”) and its state equivalents. We are national OSHA counsel for a large retailer and often appear in venues across the country on behalf of this client and several others.
Specifically, our experience includes:
Workplace Disaster Litigation
- Employee Fatalities. We have represented numerous clients facing gross negligence lawsuits after industrial accidents resulting in employee fatalities.
- Non-Subscriber Claims. For Texas employers who “opt out” of providing workers’ compensation insurance, we have defended them in such industries as manufacturing, oil and gas, retail, healthcare and others in negligence lawsuits resulting from work-related injuries, illnesses or fatalities.
- Third Party Negligence Lawsuits. Our group handles a variety of negligence lawsuits filed by employees of contractors, vendors and other third parties where the primary employer may have the benefit of the workers’ compensation exclusive remedy bar.
- Maritime Injuries. We have defended employees in Jones Act cases and other matters involving injuries offshore.
Workplace Disaster Response
- Training and Response Planning. We have created procedures for clients to know how to effectively respond when investigated by OSHA and other agencies. Clients have engaged us to train managers on how to handle an OSHA investigation and to participate in “table top” exercises to plan for crisis management when a catastrophic event occurs.
- On-Site Disaster Counsel. When an accident occurs, we are routinely deployed on an emergency basis to coordinate legal issues, interface with government investigators, assist with the presentation of witnesses and gathering of information, and provide legal advice to the root cause analysis team. We have been lead counsel on numerous disaster response teams, including: (i) a fatality and OSHA investigation at a manufacturing facility in Arkansas; (ii) a fatality and OSHA investigation at a hydrocarbon treatment facility in Florida; (iii) a fatality and OSHA investigation at a rig site in West Texas; (iv) an explosion and OSHA investigation at an oilfield services company’s West Texas location; (v) an explosion and OSHA investigation at a well site in Central Texas; and (vi) various fatalities and OSHA investigations involving drilling contractors and oilfield services companies in South and Central Texas.
- Informal Conference Settlement. Before the OSHA citation contest period, we have negotiated resolutions with the state or federal OSHA Area Director or equivalent.
- Administrative Law Judge Trials. We have successfully taken numerous contested OSHA cases through trial in both federal and state OSHA programs. We have litigated more than 42 OSHA general industry or construction standards, in addition to cases regarding recordkeeping, the General Duty Clause, abatement, and citation classification.
- Appeals. Our litigation success extends to handling appeals from the Administrative Law Judge to the appropriate Review Commission or Appeals Board.
- Citation Abatement. We provide advice to ensure legally compliant abatement of citations.
- Settlement. We have negotiated various settlements at the outset of MSHA proceedings.
- ALJ Trials. We have handled a variety of MSHA matters, including for non-traditional operators, such as logistics companies and vendors.
- Audits. We have assessed legal compliance through audits and often work in conjunction with retained safety experts to provide advice as to recommended changes for compliance.
- Policies and Programs. We have designed safety manuals, procedures, and other policies. We have drafted comprehensive safety manuals and prepared policies on various state and federal OSHA regulations, including emergency response plans (means of egress), hazard communication, process safety management, noise conservation, respiratory protection, fitness for duty, bloodborne pathogens, machinery and machine guarding, lockout/tagout, confined spaces, general environmental controls, and several others.
- Training. In addition to creating or revising workplace safety policies and programs, we have conducted training of managers and non-managers on workplace safety compliance.
- Variances. We have filed petitions to state OSHAs for variances from safety standards.
- Section II(c). We have prepared position paper responses and handled subsequent whistleblower litigation concerning employee complaints of alleged OSHA violations.
- Environmental Claims. In conjunction with the Firm’s Environmental Practice Group, we have assisted with whistleblower claims under several other statutes enforced by OSHA.