John D. Surma: Lawyer with Adams and Reese LLP

John D. Surma

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Special Counsel, Labor and Employment
Houston,  TX  U.S.A.

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Practice Areas

  • Labor and Employment
  • Aerospace / Aviation
  • Construction
  • Energy
  • Environmental
  • Manufacturing
  • Litigation
  • Oil / Gas
  • Products Liability
  • Agriculture
  • Defense
University Wisconsin-Platteville, B.S., 1992
Law SchoolWisconsin Law School, J.D., 1994
Admitted1995, Wisconsin; 2001, Texas; United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit; United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas; United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas; United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin; United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin

Professional Memberships / Affiliations

American Bar Association - Section of Labor and Employment, Occupational Safety and Health Law Committee

Defense Research Institute

Texas Bar Association

Houston Bar Association

Texas Association of Defense Counsel

Wisconsin Bar Association


John D. Surma joined Adams and Reese in 2011 as Special Counsel in the firm's Houston office. John counsels and represents clients before a variety of regulatory agencies including OSHA, MSHA, the United States Chemical Safety Board, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Railroad Administration/American Association of Railroads, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and the Texas Department of Public Safety. The services that John provides to his clients include:

•Serving as an expert in the interpretation and application of OSHA standards;
•Reviewing and developing compliance programs;
•Auditing compliance programs and counseling clients concerning deficiencies;
•Consulting with clients concerning regulations and applicability to their businesses;
•Assisting clients with permitting issues;
•Preparing clients for regulatory inspections;
•Representing clients in regulatory inspections;
•Assisting clients in regulatory inspections arising out of catastrophic incidents; and
•Representing clients in regulatory actions.

In conjunction with the regulatory aspects of his practice, John provides clients with advice related to risk management and workplace safety and security.

In addition to his regulatory practice, John performs investigations into catastrophic incidents causing injury and death. He has investigated a wide-range of catastrophes including: plant and refinery explosions and fires; construction accidents; trucking accidents; pipeline accidents; mechanical equipment failures; safety program failures; equipment operation errors; electrical safety failures; chemical releases; and structural failures. He is often retained to represent his clients in both the regulatory and civil litigation that follows.

His clients include aviation companies, refiners, chemical companies, manufacturing companies, construction companies, engineering firms, transportation companies, industrial service companies and nuclear energy companies. He represents clients throughout the country in his regulatory practice. He serves as General Counsel for several entities.

John is admitted to practice in both Texas and Wisconsin. In Texas, he practices in front of all Texas State Courts, the Southern District Federal Court of Texas and the Eastern District Federal Court of Texas. In Wisconsin, he is licensed to appear before the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, all Wisconsin Circuit Courts and the Eastern and Western District Federal Courts. He is also licensed to appear before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In the legal industry, John is an active member of the Defense Research Institute, the Texas Association of Defense Counsel, and the American Bar Association Section of Labor and Employment Law Occupational Safety and Health Committee.

John earned his J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1994 and his B.S., summa cum laude, from University of Wisconsin-Platteville in 1992.

John is a life member of many conservation organizations, including the Coastal Conservation Association, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Whitetails Unlimited, the Mule Deer Federation, the Boone and Crockett Club, the Ruffed Grouse Society, Quail Forever, and Pheasants Forever.


Top Lawyers in Labor and Employment Law, H Texas Magazine, 2013, 2014

Articles / Publications

What A Long, Strange Trip It's Been (OSHA's new rules and the strange ways they work) - EHS Today 3/11/2015

A Prairie Farm Companion (Or What Can Go Wrong With I've Got a Pen and I've Got a Phone) 3/28/2014

I've Got a Pen and I've Got a Phone 3/14/2014

OSHA Releases New Tools For Hospital Safety 2/3/2014

Proposed New Rules Relative to Silica Dust Exposure in the Workplace - DRI, The Critical Path 1/9/2014

Press Releases

OSHA Attorneys Join Adams and Reese Houston Office 9/16/2011

Media Mentions

Surma Interviewed on OSHA Citations Issued Against Ohio Employer Formed Fiber Technologies 7/17/2014

Surma Interviewed in Article on OSHA Citations Against Sterling Shipyard 7/17/2014

OSHA Attorney John Surma Interviewed About New Workplace Safety Requirements 10/7/2011

Newsletters / Alerts

OSHA Issues New Definition for Whistleblower Activity 5/15/2015

OSHA Announces New Rules for Confined Spaces (Effective August 3, 2015) 5/15/2015

U.S. Supreme Court Issues Landmark Ruling that Could Radically Change Employee Discipline 3/11/2015

OSHA's Recordkeeping Rules Now Apply to Real Estate Industry Sectors 3/9/2015

Three OSHA Rule Changes all Employers Need to Be Aware of Heading Into 2015 10/23/2014

New Recordkeeping Rule from OSHA is a Game Changer 9/11/2014

OSHA Issues New Injury Reporting Rules 8/21/2014

The Latest On OSHA's Attempts to Protect Whistleblowers 6/9/2014

Six Spring OSHA Construction Updates 4/30/2014

OSHA Comments on Distracted Driving Initiative 4/21/2014

OSHA, the New Fracking Sheriff in Town 4/18/2014

OSHA Bulletin: Union Organizing's 800 Pound Gorilla 4/17/2014

OSHA and Temporary Workers 3/17/2014

OSHA Regulation and the Growing Popularity of Employee Leasing Programs 2/10/2014

OSHA Releases New Tools For Hospital Safety 1/16/2014

OSHA's Regulatory Agenda for 2014 1/10/2014

OSHA's Newly Proposed Record Keeping Rule Change 12/10/2013

OSHA is Considering Changes to the PSM Standard 12/5/2013

OSHA: “Transitioning to Safer Chemicals” 11/12/2013

OSHA: Proposed New Rules Relative to Silica Dust Exposure in the Workplace 10/31/2013

OSHA Issues First Ever Highway Safety Directive 10/30/2012

OSHA Extends Enforcement Measures in Residential Construction 10/1/2012

OSHA Issues Directive for Marine Cargo Handling Industry 8/24/2012

Retailers Facing Increased Scrutiny by OSHA 7/20/2012

OSHA to Inspect 41, 000 Workplaces this Year 6/14/2012

OSHA's Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness 6/1/2012

OSHA Issues New Process Safety Management Standard for Cold Storage and Chemical Manufacturing Facilities 1/6/2012


OSHA Attorneys Join Adams and Reese Houston Office 9/16/2011


OSHA Update - ASSE Sabine Neches Chapter 3/3/2015

“OSHA Update: A Discussion About Two New Game-Changing Rule Changes Effective January 1, 2015” - Houston Bar Association Construction Law Section Luncheon Meeting 10/16/2014


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OSHA Issues New Guidance for Healthcare Entities
John D. Surma, July 14, 2015
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (“OSHA”), 2013 statistics demonstrate that healthcare workers have a rate of work-related illness and injury that is nearly twice as high as the overall rate seen in private industry.1 In the last five years, OSHA has issued...

OSHA Announces New Rules for Confined Spaces (Effective August 3, 2015)
John D. Surma,Collin G. Warren, May 29, 2015
On May 4, 2015, the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a new final rule in the Federal Register intended to increase protection for construction workers in confined spaces (e.g., manholes, crawl spaces, tanks and other confined spaces that are not intended...

OSHA Issues New Definition for Whistleblower Activity
John D. Surma,Collin G. Warren, May 29, 2015
In the past several months, we circulated several client alerts relative to a change in the definition of “whistleblower” and what constitutes a protected whistleblowing activity under Section 11(C) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. We also described what can be described as...

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Office Information

John D. Surma

1221 McKinney, Suite 4400
HoustonTX 77010


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