This year alone in the United States, 40 workers died on the job (as of March 16, 2015). There were 311 fatalities reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA") (through February 14, 2015), and nine2 fatalities reported to the Mine Safety and Health Administration ("MSHA") (through March 16, 2015). It is the call that everyone hopes never occurs. But too often it does. A crisis has begun, either an employee injury, a fatality, an explosion, even a natural disaster. Everything stops and crisis management begins. In the context of the workplace, it is imperative that proper planning has been undertaken prior to the crisis to minimize impact and ultimately save lives.
When a crisis occurs with a related injury or fatality, interaction with OSHA or MSHA begins. Depending on the crisis, other agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") may also become involved, especially if the facility's location is near a waterway or there has been a release of a contaminant. 3 This paper addresses the strategies and legal obligations for managing an injury-relate crisis which triggers oversight by OSHA or MSHA.
Proactive crisis management requires the commitment to assessment, planning, and implementation of a crisis management plan before a crisis begins. Each business has different hazards, different local emergency agency structures, and different cultures, all of which impact how you plan. A crisis can be defined "as a fluid and dynamic state of affairs containing equal parts danger and opportunity. It is a turning point for better or worse." 4 This turning point may be unsettling at first, but with proper planning and awareness of company obligations, including regulatory ones, the experience may generate less stress and litigation.
Whether there is an injured employee, a fire, an explosion, a vehicle involved accident, or a machine entanglement, quick and directed response is necessary. Planning should also be considered for natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, power outages, and such. All can affect your employees if they are caught at work during such an incident. The crisis that impacts your business may be similar to other companies, but there will be unique situations spurred by your product, your location, and the structure of your company. Generic assessment of risk is unacceptable.