Most everyone agrees that workplace safety matters. Our best clients have core principles requiring that everyone goes home at the end of a day’s work in the same condition and health as they arrived. But, anyone who’s ever dealt with OSHA, MSHA, other safety and health regulators, or workers’ comp knows that simply achieving safety is not enough. Compliance with a long list of regulations matters, too. In short, Safety Law Matters.
This blog is brought to you by the 22 workplace safety and health lawyers of law firm Husch Blackwell LLP. We work across industries regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), and other state and federal agencies to help our clients train, comply, and minimize risk even when the unexpected occurs.
From mining to metalworking, construction to communications towers, retail to railroads, healthcare to hair salons, we strive to bring a legal perspective to the front line of your operations. Whether you need proactive advice for complying with OSHA or MSHA rules, strategies for keeping minor incidents or inspections from becoming major problems, or sophisticated representation to defend against unjustified citations and enforcement, you should be looking for a safety and health lawyer who knows which is the top end of a hard hat.
(For lawyers like us, hard hats, steel-toed boots, and safety glasses are not just fashion statements. They’re part of the job. Shouldn’t your safety and health lawyer know something about your operations and the safety and health challenges of your industry?)
About our core blog contributors
Avi Meyerstein is a partner at Husch Blackwell who helps clients navigate serious workplace accidents, safety inspections, hazard and whistleblower investigations, citation contests, and rulemakings involving OSHA, MSHA, and other safety agencies and rules. He also helps clients invest a modest amount of time and energy upfront – such as in training, compliance advice, safety audits, or policy reviews – in order to avoid much larger risks and costs later.
What does Avi enjoy most about his work? “Some of the most challenging moments are also the most rewarding. For example, after a serious accident, people are often shaken up – scared about what happened and sometimes traumatized or grieving. In those same moments, they also have to worry about ensuring everyone’s safety, collecting evidence, trying to get people back to work, and dealing with a government investigation. Their choices in those early hours can have a huge impact for years to come.”
“It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to step into that situation and reassure them that we’re standing by their side and bringing our experience to help them navigate those intense moments. Our clients also appreciate that we’re smart about it. Whether in an investigation or a citation contest, we’ll be firm in protecting their interests, and often we have to push back against government overreach. But, in the big picture, our clients know that their long-term, strategic interest is to build a productive relationship with the regulators, and we work to help them do that.”
When he’s not defending against citations or investigating accidents, Avi enjoys spending time with three daughters, going on long hikes with his wife, advising a family business, and volunteering his time as the president of the non-profit he founded, the Alliance for Middle East Peace.
Henry provides strategic counsel to clients, to prevent or reduce risks from situations of crisis and uncertainty, in environmental, employee health and safety, and antitrust law matters. He also represents clients in rulemaking and legislative proceedings, as well as in investigations and litigation involving unfounded enforcement actions. Henry is a member of Husch Blackwell’s Technology, Manufacturing & Transportation team.
Stephen Cockerham is a labor and employment attorney who has assisted clients in the energy, manufacturing, and healthcare industries for more than 30 years. He advises clients on all types of labor and employment matters, including workplace safety and compliance. Stephen is also an experienced litigator, defending employers in federal and state courts and in administrative law proceedings.
What does Stephen enjoy most about his work? “I’m naturally curious and take the time to really get to know the client and understand its business. I feel like this allows me to provide the best advice and to do it in an expedited manner. I also like solving problems for my client, using my experience to craft creative solutions to address tough issues.”
Stephen and his wife relish the joy and drama associated with raising three daughters. Stephen also serves on the board of a number of non-profits, including CitySquare and Grace Place Properties (GPP). He helped found GPP, which provides housing, programming and jobs to ex-offenders
Erik Dullea is a Senior Counsel with Husch Blackwell and represents clients who are responding to enforcement actions, accidents, incidents, inspections, investigations and whistleblower complaints. Erik has advised employers and associations during MSHA rulemaking initiatives, OSHA’s local and national emphasis programs, and other state and federal safety agency activities. Erik also has a thorough understanding of the labor/socioeconomic federal contract provisions that government contracts must satisfy.
What brought you into the workplace safety field? “Before becoming a lawyer, I spent 20 years as a naval aviator and commercial airline pilot. This hands-on experience with challenging (if not unforgiving) work environments gave me a deep understanding for the importance of safety and risk assessment. During those years, I learned to balance and juggle the multiple priorities an employer faces regarding safety, training and running a business. Although the equipment I operated (aircraft and ships) may be different from the equipment used by a particular employee, I can still appreciate the responsibilities and obligations that employee and supervisor face on a daily basis. In addition, my time in the Navy and with the airlines gave me the chance to navigate through government bureaucracies from the inside and outside. This allows me to understand why an agency or inspector may view a situation a certain way, but then explain to the agency why an employer’s view of the same issue can be from a different angle and still improve workplace safety.”
Outside of the legal field, Erik remains heavily involved in the military reserves. He currently holds the rank of Navy Captain, and is the commanding officer of a multi-service unit in Minneapolis, MN comprised of 105 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.
Erik Eisenmann is a business lawyer and partner at Husch Blackwell who represents employers in all aspects of labor and employment law, from counseling to litigation. He frequently defends clients throughout the country that are under investigation by, or have received citations from, OSHA and MSHA.
What’s Erik’s favorite success story? “I was part of a team that convinced OSHA to completely dismiss a multi-million dollar case against one of the nation’s largest producers of animal feed and veterinary pharmaceuticals. In that case, OSHA attempted to use the general duty clause to issue citations against my client for alleged combustible dust hazards. This was OSHA’s first attempt to do this in my client’s industry, and complying with OSHA’s proposed remediation would have cost more than $10 million, with substantial modifications to facilities across the country. I was able to identify the world’s foremost expert on combustible dust in the dairy industry (who happened to live in New Zealand), and OSHA ultimately dismissed its case once they determined that our expert was correct that there was no material hazard.”
When he’s not in the office, Erik enjoys playing his French Horn in local community bands, and (weather permitting) riding his Harley Davidson around Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.
Brian, a member of Husch Blackwell’s Energy & Natural Resources group, advises clients on environmental, health and safety law, with a focus on litigation, incident investigations, enforcement defense and regulatory compliance counseling. He has extensive experience with federal and state agencies and has represented numerous clients in manufacturing, natural resource production and service-related industries.
Serving businesses for 36 years, Brad has a national practice in the areas of OSHA/MSHA defense, labor and environmental law. He has developed a reputation for rapid, in-person responses to workplace fatalities or catastrophes during government investigations. He is commonly called upon to “triage” OSHA and MSHA citations within 24 hours to enable clients to formulate settlement strategies. Brad has represented employers in 33 OSHA investigations involving fatalities.
Donna Pryor is a partner in Husch Blackwell’s Energy and Natural Resources business unit. Donna advises clients on crisis management, responding to regulatory agency (OSHA/MSHA) inspections and investigations, citations, and whistleblower investigations, among other legal and regulatory challenges.
What does Donna enjoy most about her work? “I really enjoy working with our clients. Our clients are salt of the earth people. Getting to know our clients and supporting them in challenging times has been a great joy for me. We truly have a team effort when it comes to solving problems together, where we learn what really matters to the company, and how we can get the best outcome with the least disruption to everyone’s regular responsibilities. Also, our work brings us to remote parts of the country where we get to see beautiful landscapes and enjoy great food trucks.”
When Donna is not working on clients’ safety matters, she is with her husband and two small children, on a bike ride, in the mountains, or some other Colorado adventure.
A member of Husch Blackwell’s Energy & Natural Resources group, Mark counsels clients in government investigations and regulatory matters and litigates improper enforcement actions and whistleblower cases. He has extensive experience in mining and oil and gas; health, safety and environmental law; industrial disaster response; and regulatory and legislative services.
Mark began his career at the U.S. Department of the Interior, where he headed the special investigation unit of the Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration.
Amy Wachs is a partner in the St. Louis office of Husch Blackwell with over 25 years of experience in counseling businesses on health & safety and environmental regulations. She routinely counsels clients with ongoing OSHA inspections, accident investigations and OSHA citations, as well as providing detailed analyses of the applicability of the OSHA regulations to specific manufacturing and other situations.
Well-versed in general safety matters, Amy’s particular expertise is in regulations pertaining to hazardous materials, including the OSHA process safety management (PSM) standard and the similar EPA risk management program. Amy also has extensive experience in dealing with the multiple facets of a chemical emergency, including release reporting, spill cleanup, injury reporting, incident investigation, public information and agency follow-up.
What does Amy enjoy most about her work? “I enjoy getting to know my clients and how their businesses operate. OSHA regulations can be pervasive. I particularly like digging deeply into the rules to come up with practical, implementable solutions for a particular business. I’m never satisfied with saying you ‘can’t’ do something. I always look for a solution.”