Health and Safety

Baker Botts lawyers draw on a diverse pool of talent and experience to represent our clients effectively and efficiently in matters pertaining to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Our OSHA team includes lawyers with extensive trial experience in labor and employment matters, as well as lawyers with special training in environmental and occupational health. We have a well-established reputation for working hand in hand with clients, regulators and other stakeholders on industrial hygiene and occupational safety and health matters.

COMPLIANCE COUNSELING

Our lawyers advise clients on a wide range of issues under the OSH Act. Much of our work in this area involves counseling clients on their compliance obligations as employers under the Act’s General Duty Clause or pursuant to specific health and safety standards issued by OSHA, including Hazard Communication, Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response, Process Safety Management, Lock Out-Tag Out and Personal Protective Equipment. We also advise clients on workplace exposure issues for asbestos, noise, nuisance dust and hazardous or toxic materials.

Baker Botts lawyers are well versed in the administrative aspects of the OSH Act. We counsel clients on record-keeping and reporting, and have helped them formulate safety and health plans. We also have conducted or coordinated OSH Act compliance audits, including audits against the Process Safety Management standard. In addition, we have assisted clients in developing comprehensive Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, such as those certified under the OHSAS 18001:2007 consensus international standard for such systems.

In those instances where OSHA has issued a citation, we have represented clients in negotiations with the agency. During these negotiations, we help clients present their conclusions regarding factual determinations, and advise them on the classification of alleged violations, proposed penalty amounts, and the feasibility and timing of proposed abatement measures.

ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS AND TRIAL MATTERS

Our lawyers routinely represent clients when the Department of Labor issues a complaint for an administrative adjudication in an administrative proceeding. Our trial lawyers regularly represent clients in proceedings before Administrative Law Judges and the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Where necessary, we also have argued OSH Act cases before U.S. Courts of Appeal.

We also represent clients in defending whistleblower complaints by employees who allege retaliatory employment discrimination under Section 11(c) of the OSH Act. Our lawyers have supported clients at every step, from response to the initial investigation through representation in subsequent hearings and appeals. Because OSHA is responsible for enforcing the whistleblower protection provisions of other federal statutes, our lawyers have worked on whistleblower cases under several different environmental statutes.

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS

Numerous studies have shown that well-defined health and safety (as well as environmental) management system programs can provide companies with a broad range of financial, corporate compliance, competitive and organizational benefits. More than a decade ago several consensus standards were developed to assist organizations with effectively adopting and implementing health and safety management systems, such as ANSI -Z10:2005 and OHSAS 18001:2007. Much like their environmental counterpart – ISO 14001 – these standards were developed through national and/or international collaborative efforts to develop an overall guideline and set of recommended consensus practices for occupational health and safety management systems. These standards are continually being revisited and improved, and a new international standard is now slated to be finalized in 2018 - ISO 45001, Occupational health and safety management systems - Requirements.

Baker Botts lawyers have considerable experience working with these various standards in order to address a broad range of occupational health and safety management system matters, including the following:

  • Providing legal and strategic advice to clients with regard to the design and implementation of occupational health and safety programs
  • Assisting in the development of a model occupational health and safety management system for use by particular industries
  • Counseling clients on the pros and cons of obtaining third-party registration under the OHSAS 18001:2007 or other standards, and assisting them with the registration process by conducting internal assessment audits of their management system

PIPELINE AND HAZARDOUS MATERIALS SAFETY ADMINISTRATION

Our practice includes pipeline safety compliance counseling for companies that own both interstate and intrastate pipelines and gathering lines. We have handled both internal and agency-led compliance audits under federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) requirements and corresponding state regulations. We have also assisted with jurisdictional determinations regarding federal regulation of pipelines and gathering lines under the evolving regulatory and legislative landscape. Our compliance counseling practice has covered regulations for integrity management, pressure testing, control room management, design, construction and corrosion control, among other requirements.

We have specific experience in applying for PHMSA special permits to obtain variances from design and construction requirements to account for emerging technology. In addition, we have extensive experience navigating tribal and federal lands permitting issues for midstream and upstream assets, including National Environmental Protection Act and Endangered Species Act requirements. For example, we have assisted in permitting interstate pipeline projects in North Dakota that cross federal and tribal lands and interstate waters.

In addition, we handle crisis management for pipeline and transportation-related incidents, including first response to the derailment of a Bakken crude unit train, first response to a pipeline chemical leak in Corpus Christi, Texas and response following third-party pipeline strikes.

Finally, we have experience handling federal and state pipeline safety enforcement matters, including defending contested PHMSA enforcement matters relating to alleged pipeline integrity, mapping and incident prevention matters.