Practice/Industry Group Overview
Keller and Heckman's extensive workplace safety and health practice focuses on helping our clients to shape a legislative and regulatory environment conducive to productivity and growth, and then helping our clients to compete in that environment, both domestically and globally, to the full extent permitted by applicable law. Our efforts on behalf of a client take into account not only the immediate impact, but also the intermediate and long-term impact on the client's operations.
We have earned a reputation for successfully handling accident investigations, government inspections, and enforcement actions. Our record of effective advocacy in positively advancing our clients' interests in agency rulemakings is among the best. Our attorneys have been asked to testify before Congress on major workplace policy matters, and work with members of the Senate and House on legislative initiatives. The firm represents numerous Fortune 500 companies, small and medium-sized employers, and their trade organizations in the workplace safety arena, and our workplace safety and health practice is fully integrated with the firm's environmental, transportation, food and drug, and product safety practice groups.
Government agencies often adopt ambiguous, performance-based, generic rules that apply across a highly diverse group of industries and operations, creating vague expectations as to what is required and leaving the employer to devise a practical and adequate means of compliance. Keller and Heckman's extensive knowledge and experience enables us to guide clients in developing practical, cost-effective and legally compliant solutions.
We assist in the design, development, and implementation of risk management-based programs that address the broad spectrum of workplace safety and health hazards found in general industry, construction, mining operations and transportation. This includes everything from site-specific programs to global best practices for international companies. We also conduct both broad compliance audits and targeted compliance audits that focus on one or more particular programs (e.g., chemical safety and hazard communication, electrical safety and control of hazardous energy and machine guarding), particular hazards (e.g., chemical exposures, combustible dust and noise), particular types of production equipment (e.g., ammonia refrigeration, converting, molding and printing), or particular practices (e.g., injury and illness recordkeeping).
Keller and Heckman attorneys have extensive experience with the entire enforcement process utilized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and its state counterparts (OSHA). We prepare clients for the possibility of OSHA investigations, and represent clients responding to OSHA complaints and undergoing OSHA inspections. In the event citations are issued, we: prepare clients for informal settlement conferences with OSHA; assist clients in the negotiation of informal settlement agreements; and, where appropriate, litigate citations at the pre-trial, trial and appellate levels before the federal and state review commissions and courts.
Agency Rulemakings and Pre-Enforcement Court Challenges
On behalf of one or more clients, we have participated in virtually every major OSHA rulemaking initiative over the past 25 years. We have also participated in numerous court challenges to final agency rules – on behalf of petitioners challenging rules that our clients concluded were not reasonably necessary or appropriate to workplace safety and health, and on behalf of intervenors to protect final rules against efforts to make them more burdensome. Through those efforts, we have achieved very positive results for our clients, including:
- Successful challenges to OSHA's 1989 permissible exposure limits (PELs) before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on behalf of several industry groups;
- Successful intervention to preserve the minor servicing provisions of the OSHA Lock-Out/Tag-Out Standard against union challenges;
- Successful challenge to the 1994 amendments to the OSHA personal protective equipment (PPE) standards, resulting in a settlement that achieved reasonable limits in the scope of employers' obligations under that rule;
- Supporting the leading industry coalition in the successful effort before Congress to rescind OSHA's ill-advised Ergonomics Program Standard;
- Achieving major revisions to the OSHA Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Rule initially adopted in 2001; and
- Successful intervention to preserve the permissible exposure limit (PEL) and action level of OSHA's Hexavalent Chromium Standard against the challenge brought by Public Citizen.
Keller and Heckman's forte in the rule development process lies in the ability of our attorneys and scientists to effectively synthesize the legal and technical merits of a client's case to achieve a desired result. We offer creative approaches for fulfilling regulatory goals. In a recent case, we negotiated an unprecedented compliance instruction (effectively a generic variance) from OSHA in connection with the design, operation and maintenance of a type of pressure vessel in wide use within the paper industry.
Frequently, our attorneys and technical staff are called upon to participate in the standards development activities of the American National Standards Institute, ASTM International, and other national and international consensus standards organizations. We currently serve as representatives on the United States delegation to the International Standards Organization (ISO) TC-229 on Nanotechnologies, ASTM's E34 (Occupational Health and Safety) and E56 (Nanotechnology) Committees, and the ANSI B155.1 Packaging Machinery Safety Committee.
We assist companies in deciding whether to pursue OSHA Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) status and assess their ability to meet the resource needs to qualify for VPP Status. We counsel industries on the merits of participating as an OSHA Alliance Partner and help negotiate and implement Alliance agreements.
Unique Experience and Qualifications
Each member of our staff brings a unique perspective and understanding of the impact of government rules on our clients' operations. One of the partners was an industrial hygienist and safety and health manager in the paint industry, and in-house counsel to an asbestos-abatement company prior to joining the firm. Another one of our partners, worked in a ceramic tile manufacturing plant while earning a degree in chemical engineering.
Many of our partners have formal educations in technical areas, including chemical engineering, industrial engineering and toxicology. We are supported by the firm's scientific staff, which has two certified toxicologists, and many other scientists with extensive training and experience in statistics, toxicology and risk assessment in the workplace safety and health arena. Our synergistic blend of in-house scientists and attorneys specializing in workplace safety and health allow us to address substantive issues both scientifically and legally.
With hazard communication remaining one of the employment community's most significant challenges, we are positioned to assist clients in all aspects of compliance. This includes preparation of MSDS, labels, programs and training that meet the requirements of the OSHA and MSHA HazCom rules, California's Proposition 65, Canada's WHMIS program, the EU Dangerous Substances and Dangerous Preparations Directives, the REACH and GHS programs, and corresponding requirements in the Pacific Rim. With in-house toxicologists, industrial hygienists, DOT HazMat experts, and chemists, our expertise allows us to craft effective hazard communication materials that meet regulatory requirements world-wide.