OSHA Compliance, Litigation and Defense

OSHA Compliance, Litigation and Defense

Hunton & Williams works with clients to develop strategies to enhance workplace safety and to avoid OSHA violations. We have extensive experience in the development, implementation and auditing of occupational safety and health programs. Our advice practice includes the development, implementation and auditing of occupational safety and health compliance programs for employers; drafting of policies with respect to obligations under OSHA; development and review of employee safety manuals and procedures; preparation of emergency response action plans for employers; and advising employers regarding OSHA obligations and appropriate and defensible disciplinary actions when employees violate safety rules. In addition, our lawyers conduct frequent seminars for managers and employees on safety and health compliance, infectious disease management and pandemic/disaster preparedness. We also have assisted our clients with efforts to be recognized under OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs and/or to achieve compliance with international safety standards. We are assisted in this work by a number of safety consultants with whom we have worked for years. We also have extensive experience in whistleblower cases, including those where an employee alleges adverse employment action resulting from protected conduct under OSHA. 

We focus first on preventing OSHA compliance issues, but we also have vast experience defending clients facing citations by both state and federal OSHA. We provide comprehensive representation throughout the process, from negotiated settlement to administrative litigation and appeal. The firm has defended clients in North Carolina, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, California, Maine, Illinois and Texas against significant OSHA fines, including for fatalities, multiple serious injuries and the largest proposed fines in the history of Maryland’s and North Carolina’s state plans. 
As part of our practice, attorneys monitor and update clients on legislative and regulatory developments in the workplace safety arena and maintain relationships within OSHA, allowing the firm to provide up-to-the-minute information and advice to clients. We also have filed comments with DOL on proposed regulatory initiatives. 

With all OSHA citations, our clients typically wish to pursue negotiations with OSHA to determine whether a favorable settlement can be reached that drops or reduces the number, severity and penalty amounts of the citations. Our attorneys have had great success in obtaining favorable settlement agreements containing non-admission language, even in cases involving death and serious injuries. In situations where the injured workers include individuals who would not be barred by workers' compensation exclusivity from a tort action, we always manage settlement with an eye toward mitigating tort risk. This strategic approach is valued by our clients. 

Specific experience includes:

  • Represented OSHA clients in numerous situations where equipment failure, misuse of equipment, acts of God, or employee misconduct has resulted in death or serious injury to employees. Our work involves accident investigation, negotiation with OSHA or equivalent state plan, defense of OSHA/MSHA citations, follow up compliance to resolve identified issues, and wrongful death litigation defense. This work has included response to hazardous chemical release and spills, electrical shock, crushing, falling, equipment rollover, amputation, and asphyxiation. 
  • Routinely advise clients on their obligations under OSHA, including but not limited to security issues, emergency response plans for hazardous spill response, weather emergency, and criminal events.  
  • Routinely advise clients on employment policies and applicable laws regarding weapons at work, violence at work, and response to violence at work.
  • Advise clients on criminal background check legal compliance.  
  • Particularized experience regarding infectious disease control and response in the workplace. Advised clients regarding attendance, leave, pay, insurance, discipline, infection control measures and the like. Advised regarding HIV, TB, SARS, Legionnaires, H1N1, MRSA, hepatitis, and other diseases and conditions.
  • Advise clients on the interplay between CFATS and OSHA obligations, which conflict in some areas. 
  • Represent a national retailer in multiple cases defending against regulator efforts to place retail employees in personal protective equipment (PPE). 
  • Represent an international food manufacturing company in cases involving PSM, confined space, lockout, guarding, emergency response, HazCom, HazMat and combustible dust.  
  • Represent a regional hospital chain, water utility, electrical utilities and construction companies in asbestos exposure cases.
  • Represent a metal manufacturing client in electrical and press fatality cases.
  • Represent a retirement community in blood borne pathogens and PPE matters.
  • Represent a national grocery chain in matters involving ergonomics.
  • Represented a contractor in a matter involving a bridge collapse. Company was initially assessed a fine of $1,000,000, and we were successfully able to negotiate a significant reduction.  
  • Represented a national home improvement retailer in a case that involved personal protective equipment. 
  • Represented a national food manufacturing company (meat products) in a whistleblower matter that resulted in an OSHA decision for the company. 
  • Represented a national waste management company in a whistleblower matter that resulted in an OSHA decision for the company. 
  • Represented a national home improvement retailer in a California DOSH case involving eyewash, forklifts, heat, and injury and illness prevention program (IPP). 
  • Represented an oil drilling and refining company in a matter involving claims of workers’ compensation retaliation, OSHA, race discrimination and termination. We obtained summary judgment for our client.