Safety Professionals are faced with a myriad of legal issues and liability risks on an almost daily basis. Arguably, the majority of legal risk involves liability for the safety professional's employer, however, some risks have personal liability implications. Some safety professionals seem to be most concerned with liability stemming from compliance with regulations put forth by agencies such as OSHA, the EPA and the DOT, while others may be more worried about tort liabilities stemming from mishaps and disputes with third parties and the general public. Tort law, contract law, administrative law, etc., all present areas of law in which the safety professional needs a sound foundation in order to protect themselves and the interests of the organizations they serve. Within this myriad of issues, and aside from regulatory compliance, it appears the area of law for which safety professionals have the most questions, encounter the most issues, and need to avoid pitfalls the most, lies in the ubiquitous, and sometimes nebulous field of employment law. In fact, employment law issues often involve a culmination of additional regulatory/administrative issues, personal liability and, in some cases even liability stemming from third parties.
Unless the safety professional is highly specialized and/or works within a large organization where she/he only deals with a niche area (i.e., product safety, fire protection systems, etc.), the safety professional will likely be involved with identifying, evaluating and controlling hazards, or mitigating loss that involve humans. In most cases, these humans are employees of the safety professional's employer. Furthermore, the safety professional may likely have his/her own group of employees to manage in addition to protecting the employees of all other departments within a company. Through this pervasive, nearly inevitable interaction with the people of an organization, the safety practitioner's work will collide with employment law risks. Therefore, having a foundation that allows the safety professional to spot employment law issues, pause to analyze a situation before acting, and know when, and to who, the right questions must be asked is very important. While safety professionals may not need the degree of skill in spotting issues that is necessary to pass a bar exam (spotting issues is a critical task for law students and lawyers), their figurative employment law radar needs have enough function to avoid the pitfalls and faux pas that have the potential to cause serious problems.