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OSHA Compliance & Defense

Every employer has a fundamental responsibility to provide a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. Kutak Rock’s OSHA Compliance & Defense Practice Group provides deep experience across the country in the area of workplace health and safety under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). 

The OSHA Practice Group assists employers, companies and businesses with a variety of safety-related services, including regulatory compliance; preparedness and prevention; responding to whistleblower complaints and concerns regarding unsafe work conditions brought by employees or OSHA; negotiating citations, fines and classifications with OSHA; establishing accident protocols; and conducting investigations. 

Preparedness and Prevention

The OSHA Practice Group guides employers regarding federal OSHA standards, as well as those maintained by state counterparts, such as Cal-OSHA. The team helps employers proactively manage workplace safety and health responsibilities and curtail safety challenges and concerns before they arise. This may include services such as:

  • Drafting or reviewing safety policies, rules and programs for handbooks or other written workplace protocols;
  • Assisting with health and safety workplace audits;
  • Guiding compliance through best practices to improve and maintain conditions; and
  • Training and webinars on various safety-related topics, such as preparing for a surprise OSHA site inspection.

In the wave of a global pandemic, the OSHA Practice Group works to establish written preparedness and response plans for employers to establish protocols for responding to contagious and infectious diseases, best practices for hygiene, risk mitigation and operational restructuring. 

Managing Safety Concerns and Complaints

One of the biggest challenges for an employer is how to handle a workplace safety complaint or investigation. The OSHA Practice Group has extensive experience in protecting an employer’s interests and managing inquiries by state and federal compliance officers. These services include the following:

  • Investigating workplace accidents and reports of unsafe work conditions;
  • Defending workplace whistleblower-retaliation complaints filed with OSHA;
  • Managing OSHA site inspections in response to programmed or unprogrammed inspections;
  • Contesting and resolving citations through administrative proceedings with OSHA;
  • Negotiating the reclassification of citations assessed by OSHA;
  • Negotiating the reduction of fines and penalties assessed by OSHA;
  • Managing abatement efforts and responses;
  • Litigating appeals of OSHA citations, and
  • Defending COVID-19 work-relatedness findings, as well as guiding employers through work-relatedness investigations.

Accident Investigations and Management

Accidents in the workplace often require an employer to take immediate, time-sensitive steps. The OSHA Practice Group works with employers to investigate workplace accidents, including fatalities, and respond quickly to meet any associated reporting or recording obligations with OSHA. Effective management of such matters may include consulting with external professional and certified safety experts, including industrial hygienists, in order to establish a plan to address varied and complex issues, and prepare for the possibility of legal proceedings.

Whistleblower Retaliation Defense

The OSHA Practice Group frequently defends clients against alleged discriminatory employment practices in violation of the whistleblower protections set forth in Section 11(c) of OSHA. This regulatory section prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee in response to a reasonable, good-faith report of OSHA noncompliance. Complaints of retaliation have become more frequent during the COVID-19 pandemic, and such reports are expected to continue to increase. The OSHA Practice Group has a depth of experience in crafting strategic responses and defending such whistleblower retaliation claims through resolution.