Safety always comes first, but determining what constitutes “safe” can be a challenge within an increasingly complex regulatory structure. To develop and maintain an effective safety program, you must understand the regulatory structure under which your company operates. This will allow you to put your best foot forward in the context of inspections, and to effectively defend citations.

Stoel Rives’ Occupational Safety and Health Law attorneys have extensive experience helping clients understand and comply with federal and state occupational safety and health laws and regulations. Our attorneys have extensive experience representing clients in responding to citations that allege violations of safety and health regulations.

OSHA Compliance

The occupational safety and health regulations that apply to our clients are both broad in scope and extremely complicated. Compliance issues are very often specific to particular industries and specific operations within these industries. Our attorneys have substantial experience with the nuances of these regulations across the full range of general industry and construction sectors (including wood products, metals production, construction, assembly production, high tech, retail operations, mining, transportation, and manufacturing).

We can assist you in the development of compliance programs, and conduct compliance audits to help you minimize the risk and consequences of a citation. Examples of our areas of experience follow:

  • Process safety management
  • Multi-employer worksite issues and contractor management
  • Fall protection
  • Workplace chemical exposure issues
  • Confined spaces
  • Welding
  • Respirators and personal protective equipment
  • Air contaminants (including all specially regulated air contaminants)
  • Lockout / tagout
  • Hazard communication
  • Materials handling
  • Asbestos
  • Powered industrial trucks
  • Bloodborne pathogens
  • Ventilation
  • Ergonomics
  • Cranes
  • Electrical
  • Occupational noise
  • Recordkeeping

Inspection and Investigation Response

Given the increased attention on worker protection and the significant penalties now being issued by both state and federal regulators, the proper handling of agency inspections is critical. Our attorneys work with clients, most often right in their facilities, through inspections, including investigations arising out of fatalities and serious injuries. We can help present your best case to the regulators who decide what enforcement action to take.

We assist in managing catastrophic incidents, fatality accidents, and other post-accident investigations to minimize civil liability arising from an incident. We have years of experience dealing with multi-agency inspections and with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board in the wake of these types of events. We are also able to partner with the firm’s white-collar attorneys whenever claims involving criminal liability are filed or threatened.

OSHA Enforcement Defense and Litigation

Our attorneys frequently represent clients in appeals of citations issued under safety and health regulations, including citations issued by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state agencies administering state safety and health programs. We are often called upon to assist clients in informal settlement conferences, and to handle trial and appeal of matters that cannot be resolved by settlement.

Retaliation and Whistleblower Claims

We routinely represent clients in court and administrative proceedings in which employees allege that they were terminated because they complained about safety practices. Our attorneys also advise clients on drafting and implementing anti-retaliation policies, and on developing best practices for avoiding claims.

Indoor Air Quality

Our attorneys have substantial experience in identifying and resolving indoor air quality concerns involving bioaerosol, fungal, mycotoxin, and chemical air contaminants. We have represented school building owners and companies renting commercial spaces during investigations, remediation projects, and civil actions alleging personal injuries from exposures.

Mine Safety / MSHA

When it comes to safety and health, our team has deep experience representing all sectors of the mining industry. We regularly defend mining companies and mine supervisors against administrative enforcement actions brought by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) for alleged violations of the Mine Act. Equally important, we counsel clients on the requirements of the Mine Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, to help them head off problems before federal regulators get involved. In addition, we regularly help mining companies through investigations, whether they are internal or carried out by the government after an accident or other triggering event. We also regularly—and successfully—defend mining companies in whistleblower cases brought under the Mine Act. And since litigation isn’t always the best answer for our clients, we actively cultivate and maintain strong, productive relationships with policymakers and decision-makers on Capitol Hill and in the federal government.


  • Represented a pulp and paper mill in connection with whistleblower allegations, accident investigations, hazardous piping inspection, and associated citations in Washington, Utah and California.
  • Assisted a refinery in OSHA and Chemical Safety Board inspections relating to an explosion and associated incident and in an OSHA National Emphasis Program inspection, and defended resulting citations.
  • Represented a petroleum refinery in connection with an OSHA National Emphasis Program investigation, and assisted in its contest of the associated citations.
  • Defended an airline in connection with OSHA citations relating to baggage handling equipment and associated employee injuries.
  • Represented a large public utility in multiple OSHA investigations and with regard to OSHA rulemaking regarding approach distances to electrical systems. 
  • Represented several paper mill clients nationwide in various governmental agency investigations and civil actions arising out of fatal and serious accidents, toxic tort exposures, and releases of hazardous substances.
  • Represented a coalition of business entities in litigation challenging promulgation of an ergonomics standard under the Washington Industrial Safety & Health Act. The standard was overturned by voter initiative while the case was pending on appeal.
  • Represented a transit district regarding investigations and various enforcement actions including multiple fatal accidents during light-rail construction work and in developing safety management programs for construction, traffic control and tunneling operations.
  • Assisted a trade group in opposing a proposed Oregon OSHA rule change, succeeding in convincing Or-OSHA that the change would negatively impact Oregon employers and was not supported by the science. The rule revisions subsequently adopted were consistent with the client’s comments.
  • Achieved a defense verdict for an apparel company after a lengthy jury trial in which the plaintiff sought multimillion-dollar damages, including punitive damages, for alleged safety-related whistleblower retaliation.

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