Safety and health issues in the workplace can create significant risk and liability. Injuries, illnesses and accidents not only take a toll on employees but also impair productivity, disrupt operations, damage expensive equipment. They also can lead to government citations and penalties, workers’ compensation payments, whistleblower claims and third-party lawsuits.
Husch Blackwell’s safety and health attorneys partner with our industry clients to help them proactively comply with regulations and manage successful relationships with enforcement agencies. When injuries or accidents occur, we step in immediately to help businesses navigate challenging compliance questions, investigations and enforcement actions in order to minimize liability.
We defend clients against enforcement actions by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and other state and federal safety agencies. In addition, our team helps clients avoid these challenges in the first place with guidance on safety policies and programs, training for front-line supervisors, strategic advice and representation during inspections and investigations, and representation during rulemakings.
An industry-focused approach
Our clients operate factories, mines, quarries, construction sites, healthcare facilities, agribusiness processing sites, chemical plants, electric power generation plants, warehouses and distribution centers, staffing agencies, retail stores, hospitals and a variety of other facilities and businesses. We assist them with:
- Counseling on OSHA and MSHA compliance
- Defense of citations, including those involving catastrophic events and fatalities
- Agency investigations
- Supervisor training
- Investigation and defense of whistleblower claims
- Responses to anonymous safety complaints
- Negotiation of site-specific safety rules
- Quashing of search warrants
- Defense of criminal investigations and charges
- Responses to agency rulemaking initiatives
- Analysis of safety and health aspects of mergers and acquisitions
Accident investigation/inspection response and crisis management
A company’s response in the first hours and days after an industrial accident can determine the liability and implications that follow months and years later. How the company handles on-site inspections and investigations by government agencies can dramatically impact penalties, closures, abatement, and civil and criminal liability. Recovery efforts, evidence collection and preservation, document requests, employee interviews, insurance issues, PR messaging and expert forensic analysis are among the urgent demands that we help manage in a crisis.
A member of our team can mobilize to any worksite in the country within 24 hours, and we commonly do so after catastrophic events. Our Safety & Health attorneys understand the dynamics of an emergency situation and employ successful strategies to reduce the multiple risks created by unforeseen workplace events. We partner with company personnel to respond immediately to significant accidents, explosions, fires, chemical releases and product toxicity concerns.
Our team provides guidance on protecting the reputations of the company and its leaders; preserving employee morale and managing regulator and community relations; reducing, eliminating or transferring financial and lawsuit risks to other parties; and avoiding criminal prosecutions. We coordinate a seamless response, bringing together a team to handle not only the immediate investigation and agency enforcement, but also related workers’ compensation, insurance coverage, third-party liability and environmental issues.
Litigating/defending against agency citations
While we guide clients toward strategies that seek to minimize unjustified enforcement, sometimes litigation is unavoidable. We provide clients with the information they need to make prudent and time-sensitive decisions on contesting or settling citations and whistleblower claims. Our team defends clients before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (and equivalent state tribunals), the Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, and other safety agency administrative bodies.
Representing your interests during agency rulemaking
New agency rules can have a huge impact on company operations and often have a questionable relationship to safety, exceed an agency’s authority or are not justified as initially written. Our team represents employers and national trade associations in connection with OSHA and MSHA rulemaking proceedings, seeking to ensure that responsible officials are mindful of our clients’ needs in furthering our common objective of improved workplace safety and health.
Compliance counseling and training
Compliance counseling is an important part of our Safety & Health practice. Our work in this area includes:
- Training management and front-line supervisors on how to handle agency inspections, accident investigations, whistleblower claims and other challenges
- Reviewing corporate safety and health policies, handbooks and practices
- Developing compliance strategies
- Identifying at-risk areas of noncompliance through on-site inspections and reviews
- Reviewing OSHA recordkeeping compliance
- Assessing job hazards
- Creating and implementing workplace safety programs and policies, training and enforcement procedures
- Developing inspection and citation response protocols
Our attorneys regularly speak on safety and health legal issues at regional and national conferences. In addition, we provide private seminars to clients on OSHA and MSHA compliance and new developments.