Personal Liability for Safety Professionals


Adapted from Legal Liability: A Guide for Safety & Loss Prevention Professionals by Thomas Schneid & Michael Schumann and from Occupational Safety and

Health Law Handbook fro ABS Consulting, Government Institutes

Roles & conflicts

Criminal sanctions

Protecting yourself with paperwork

Protective theories

Class exercise – Personal Risk Assessment

Decisions affect health, safety & personal welfare

Conflicting duties

◦ Management

 Cost concerns

◦ Employee welfare

 Unions

Expanding workload

Mistakes = professional & personal problems

Increase in use by OSHA

◦ DOJ represents OSHA

◦ Willful violations – plain indifference, not intentional disregard

◦ Advanced notice of inspections

◦ Knowingly false statements, representations or certifications

State criminal codes

◦ Must be approved by OSHA

 Or have general applicability (traffic & fire codes)

Environmental statutes

◦ No death requirement

◦ Knowing or negligent conduct

◦ EPA and OSHA MOU for joint inspections, referrals and information exchange

For when disaster strikes and the bombs start falling

Document details of every action

◦ Management not committed to safety

◦ Compliance is not possible

Include correspondence, email, documentation of phone calls, minutes of meetings, denial of funding, etc.

Aids with credibility and memory

◦ “Past recollection refreshed”

Hindsight is 20/20

3 for civil liability

◦ Indemnification

 Protection by company for actions within scope of employment

 Company pays legal fees, penalties and damages

◦ Insurance

 Creates ‘deep pockets’

 Not available for criminal protection or willful actions

 Can be very expensive

◦ Minimal assets = “Can’t get blood from a turnip”

 Puts what you do have at risk

1 for criminal liability

◦ Compliance

“there is no substitute for a safety and health program that is in compliance with the OSHA standards”, Legal Liability, p. 194