OSHA and the Design Professional

by Arthur G. Sapper, Partner; McDermott, Will & Emery, Washington, D.C.,


Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1994, Vol. 64, Issue 4, Pg. 60-62


Document Type: Feature article

Abstract: Since the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the question of how the role of design professionals - engineers and architects - relate to the safety of a construction site has never been completely resolved. Of course, as general employers, designers are covered by OSHA standards, from the early 1970s to today, the administration has made numerous attempts to make the stricter standards of construction work apply to design professionals. Early attempts failed when the courts determined that engineers and architects do not engage in, nor substantially supervise, the actual work of assembling a building. However, in the wake of the L'Ambiance disaster, which killed 28 workers, OSHA again sought to extend its mandate in the construction field to cover design work. This attempt also failed, but more recent attempts to cite construction managers for safety violations have succeeded. With a significant case involving constract interpretations by a designer coming up, the course of this emerging law may shift yet again. Arthur G. Sapper is a partner at McDermott, Will & Emery, Washington, D.C. He represented professional organizations in two cases covered here and is one of many attorneys representing CH2M Hill Central, Inc., Corvallis, Ore., in ongoing litigation discussed. The views represented are his, not those of his firm, his clients or any professional association.

Subject Headings: Occupational health | Occupational safety | Engineers | Safety | Federal agencies | Court decisions

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