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

  • OSHA
  • Labor and Employment
  • Aerospace / Aviation
  • Construction
  • Energy
  • Environmental
  • Litigation
  • Oil / Gas
  • Products Liability
  • Agriculture
  • Defense
  • Manufacturing
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


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, Pheasants Forever, and Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance.

Other Distinctions

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

Houston's Top Lawyers - “Labor and Employment, ” H Texas Magazine, 2015

Articles / Publications

Three OSHA Rule Changes all Employers Need to Be Aware in 2015 - DRI 4/10/2015

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


OSHA Update to ASSE Sabine Neches Chapter - Insight on New Rules and Rule Changes And a “Stealth Rule” expected to be effective in August, 2015 7/7/2015

2015 OSHA Changes - IHI E&C International Corporation 6/29/2015

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

Newsletters / Alerts

OSHA Bulletin: Criminal Prosecutions and Workplace Safety 12/18/2015

OSHA Delays Enforcement of New Confined Spaces in Construction Standard 11/5/2015

OSHA Fines to Increase by Nearly 52%, Marking First Increase in 25 Years 11/3/2015

OSHA's New Reporting Rules: How rather basic concepts morphed into incredibly strained definitions 10/26/2015

OSHA Bulletin: Recordkeeping and Reporting Post-BFI 9/28/2015

OSHA Violations: Managers and Others May Have Personal Civil and/or Criminal Liability 9/15/2015

Will “Host Employers” Face Increased Scrutiny from OSHA? 9/9/2015

OSHA Issues Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in Response to Court Ruling 8/25/2015

OSHA Targets Workplace Violence 7/16/2015

OSHA Issues New Guidance for Healthcare Entities 7/10/2015

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


Documents by this lawyer on

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Criminal Prosecutions and Workplace Safety
John D. Surma,Collin G. Warren, January 15, 2016
On September 15, 2015, we wrote an OSHA Bulletin that summarized a memorandum issued by Deputy Attorney General Yates. On December 17, 2015, Yates issued another memorandum that will impact all employers and that relates to “Prosecution of Worker Safety Violations.”

OSHA Fines to Increase by Nearly 52%, Marking First Increase in 25 Years
John D. Surma,Collin G. Warren, November 12, 2015
OSHA critics often complain that the maximum allowed penalties have not changed since 1990 when the penalties were set at $7,000 (other than serious and serious) and $70,000 (repeat or willful). The “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015” will both cause a dramatic increase in those amounts and...

OSHA’s New Reporting Rules: How Rather Basic Concepts Morphed into Incredibly Strained Definitions
John D. Surma,Collin G. Warren, November 5, 2015
Effective January 1, 2015, the rules related to the reporting of certain incidents to OSHA changed. The old rules required that employers report the hospitalization of three or more employees and the death of one or more employees. The new rules require employers to report deaths of one or more...

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Office Information

John D. Surma

1221 McKinney, Suite 4400
HoustonTX 77010


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