Many thousands of workplaces across the United States are subject to regulation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA"). Despite the considerable effort expended by employees, employers, and regulators to ensure a safe working environment, many workplaces will be faced with crises, such as workplace fatalities, that require considerable knowledge and preparation to respond to effectively. Employers, large and small, must be prepared to respond to a crisis in a way that complies with OSHA obligations while at the same time minimizing business risk.
This paper reviews appropriate emergency response and risk management planning, the requirement of notifying OSHA of the crisis, how to respond to an OSHA investigation in the event of a fatality, and handling media coverage of the event. This paper also discusses the employer's legal privileges in an investigation and how to avoid common pitfalls faced by employers during an investigation. Finally, the paper discusses the immediate steps that should be taken by an employer in the event of a crisis.
OSHA places great emphasis on effective emergency response planning and addresses many specific requirements throughout OSHA's implementing regulations. Compliance with these requirements is necessary for an employer to craft an emergency response plan that will succeed in both withstanding OSHA scrutiny and better preparing employees in the event of a crisis. An effective emergency response and risk management plan is an invaluable tool for responding to crises that may occur during the performance of OSHA regulated work.