Safety and health professionals play a critical role in the management of crisis situations, including industrial and mine accidents affecting employees, customers, contractors and othermembers of the public. Some of these incidents may result from unsafe acts, while others relate to unsafe conditions that may also constitute violations of legal requirements imposed by federal agencies, including but not limited to: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA"), the Mine Safety and Health Administration ("MSHA"), the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA"), the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS"). State safety and health agencies, as well as state attorneys general, may also have an interest in prosecuting companies for accidents that violate state-specific statutory requirements.

Moreover, if third parties (contractors, customers or members of the public) are injured or killed as a result of a workplace incident, tort litigation may ensue. There are other entities who may become involved in investigation of serious incidents, including the National Transportation Safety Board, the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and state law enforcement officers.

Failure to plan in advance for crisis management of natural disasters, business disruptions, and incidents involving safety/health/environmental hazards, and to carry out such plans in an effective and efficient manner, may result in heavier enforcement by OSHA, MSHA and/or EPA. It almost certainly will complicate processing of insurance claims, increase the likelihood of tort litigation against the company and, potentially, its agents, and could even result in criminal prosecution.

Key Definitions - "Crisis" and "Accident"

Generally speaking, a "crisis" is any unplanned event, occurrence or sequence of events that has a specific undesirable consequence. Such events can be sudden or be the result of cumulative failures. This is where incident investigation can be of value, as cumulative failures must be accurately identified if preventative measures are needed at related facilities owned and operated by the company, or even at similar operations within the industry sector. Some examples of "crises" that may require the services of safety and health professionals include:

  • Natural disasters

  • Safety/health accidents

  • Environmental incidents (spills, releases of toxics into the air)

  • Workplace violence

  • Business disruption caused by fire or outside factors

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.