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Practice Group

Workplace Safety and Health

Ogletree Deakins has more than 60 attorneys who devote all or a substantial percentage of their practice to workplace safety law. We are among a handful of law firms in the United States that earned a Band 1 ranking for Occupational Safety and Health in the Chambers USA 2023 Guide. Our group is known widely and respected for the knowledge, experience, relationships, and credibility of our attorneys and the exceptional level of service we provide to our clients throughout the country.

Occupational Safety And Health

The occupational safety and health (OSH)-related services we provide include:

  • Investigation of workplace accidents;
  • Effective handling of OSHA inspections and safety whistleblower complaints;
  • Negotiation and resolution of OSHA citations;
  • Litigation and trial of OSHA citation cases;
  • Advice and counseling to help ensure compliance;
  • Identification and adoption of best practices to improve safety and health performance;
  • Assistance with the conduct of safety and health audits; and
  • Assistance with benchmarking safety and health practices among peer companies or other industries.

Our OSH attorneys represent employers across the nation in “willful,” “egregious,” and Severe Violator Enforcement Program cases, as well as in the litigation of other significant contested OSHA cases, before the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, corresponding OSHA state-plan adjudicatory agencies, and appellate courts.

Our OSH attorneys are highly experienced in handling OSHA inspections and negotiating favorable informal OSHA citation settlements. We counsel clients to help ensure compliance, advise on the development or enhancement of safety and health programs, and assist in the conduct of safety and health audits. We have worked extensively with employers in general industry, construction, and special industry sectors.

When a serious workplace accident occurs, one or more of our experienced OSH lawyers can respond quickly to direct or to help conduct an investigation, identify immediate, contributory, and root causes of the accident, and provide recommendations to prevent a recurrence. We regularly take steps to ensure the availability to clients of legal privileges that can protect against undesired or forced disclosure of investigation results, and we work to limit the potential for related criminal and civil liability.

Ogletree Deakins clients seeking to have their voices heard on OSH law matters in Washington, D.C., can rest assured that our OSH attorneys are experienced in that arena, as well. We have healthy relationships and regularly interface with high-ranking government agency officials, and we work with numerous national employer associations. We often respond to agency rulemaking initiatives on our clients’ behalf. For instance, we have filed comments on standards and regulations proposed by OSHA for  many prominent trade associations. We are also experienced in interacting with ancillary federal agencies on OSH law matters, including with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health on health hazard evaluations.

To help our clients keep abreast of OSH law developments, we conduct frequent webinars and regularly publish articles and podcasts on significant developments.  We also offer seminar presentations on relevant legal topics, including our annual California Workplace Safety Conference and our annual, national Workplace Safety Symposium.

Representative Experience

  • In the past 5 years, we have represented 1,650 clients in more than 4,400 workplace safety and health matters. We represent clients in multiple industries, including manufacturing, construction, healthcare, electric utilities, specialty construction (e.g., electrical and pipeline construction and maintenance), warehousing/logistics, food manufacturing and processing, and retail. Because of our deep and diverse client base, we are able to provide clients frequently with benchmarking data that provide insight into their peers’ experience with workplace safety issues.
  • We responded to a fatality in Puerto Rico that was under investigation. We executed a strategy to communicate the client’s defenses to Puerto Rico OSHA (PR-OSHA) early in the inspection process, and PR-OSHA declined to issue citations.
  • We represented an electric utility with regard to citations issued under OSHA’s Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) standard following an ammonia release at the facility. We argued that the release was controlled and that employees who took steps to control the release were not responding to an emergency. The administrative law judge vacated the citation and the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission affirmed the decision. The Commission’s decision was ultimately upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
  • We represent a major logistics/warehousing operation undergoing multiple OSHA inspections focused on ergonomics, recordkeeping, and other issues. We deployed teams to multiple client facilities to provide representation during the inspections. Litigation of the citations OSHA issued is ongoing.
  • Using a team of approximately 10 OSH attorneys, we conducted a detailed audit of a client’s OSHA 300 Logs and 301 forms. Given our strength, we were able to complete the audit within one week. Our work included analysis as well as detailed recommendations regarding entries that might lead to OSHA citations.

OSHA issued a General Duty Clause citation to a client following a significant employee injury. The case raised complex issues regarding the evidence OSHA must offer to show its proposed abatement methods are feasible and mitigate the hazard more effectively than the employer’s existing processes and procedures. Following a trial, the administrative law judge vacated the citation.

  • We represent a large retailer in multiple cases in which OSHA has alleged willful and repeat violations and proposed many millions of dollars in penalties, more than 80 of which cases have been consolidated for corporate-wide settlement negotiation purposes.
  • We handled more than 100 COVID-19-related OSHA inspections for a hospital chain client during the pandemic, only two of which resulted in citations. OSHA then withdrew the citations in both remaining cases, avoiding negative publicity and brand impact the client could have suffered.
  • In a state plan case, after a six-month inspection and a multiple-day trial, we were able to settle successfully the vast majority of the 50-plus citations our client received and to prevail on those that otherwise would have resulted in a dramatic change of the client’s—and likely the industry’s practice.
  • After six hearings in five different heat illness cases throughout the country, we persuaded the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission to vacate all of the citations—both serious and repeat—against our client.

OSHA Tracker

Our tracker converts OSHA’s publicly available inspection, citation, and penalty data into more digestible and useful information. Subscribers can filter the data by OSHA region, state, industry, or date to spot enforcement trends and identify emerging issues.

Mine Safety and Health

Our mine safety and health attorneys represent both mine operators and contractors before the Review Commission and federal appellate courts in challenges to citations, penalty assessments, and other agency actions. We also represent mine operators and managers in special investigations and safety discrimination investigations and assist mining companies with their overall compliance efforts..

Workplace Safety and Health Practice Group Leader

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