U.S. Supreme Court Asked to Review OSHA Contractor Case

By Bruce Rolfsen

The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to review an OSHA case against a chemical plant contractor, Jacobs Field Services North America Inc. ( Jacobs Field Servs. N. Am. v. Perez , U.S., No. 16-950, 2/3/17 ).

Jacobs, in a petition filed Feb. 3, wants the Supreme Court to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upholding a final order by Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission ( Jacobs Field Servs. N. Am. v Perez, 5th Cir., No. 15-60342, 8/19/16 ).

Jacobs asked the high court to consider three questions raised by the appeals court ruling:

  • To what degree must a party develop its objections before the review commission to prevent the issue from being waived by the commission and not eligible for appeal?
  • Does the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have the authority to expand the scope of its process safety management rule to cite contractors for provisions that are applicable to the host employer?
  • Does a standard's use of the term "such as" give OSHA the authority to expand the scope of the standard to include any situation, no matter the unlikelihood the hazard, in which a hazard can be tied to an unidentified piece of equipment?

The review commission found that Jacobs had committed two serious violations and fined the company $14,000 over allegations stemming a March 2013 accident at a chemical plant in La Porte, Texas, that burned a Jacobs technician.

The commission upheld an administrative law judge's ruling that Jacobs failed to establish and implement written procedures for maintaining the integrity of process equipment under 29 C.F.R. 1910.119(j)(2) and failed to train the injured employee in an overview of the process and its hazards and in the procedures applicable to his task under 29 C.F.R. 1910.119(j)(3).

The Supreme Court rarely takes up OSHA cases. Most recently, on Feb. 29, 2016, the court decided against reviewing a petition from a Wild West theme park, Western World Inc., about a case in which a performer was shot with a real bullet while performing in a mock gunfight.

Darren S. Harrington of Key Harrington Barnes PC in Dallas represents Jacobs.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington, D.C., at BRolfsen@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

For More Information

Jacobs' petition is available at http://src.bna.com/l1N.

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