Stop Work Authority & Offshore Work

Many offshore operators in the Gulf of Mexico have adopted something known as a stop work authority (SWA) policy. An SWA gives every worker, no matter what their level of seniority, the responsibility and authority to stop work at any time if they notice an unsafe condition or act that could result in an undesirable event.

According to the companies that use these policies, SWA policies are meant to provide workers with the confidence and freedom to protect themselves as need. However, critics of stop work authority policies point out that company cultures don’t encourage workers to use them. Instead, SWA policies are a way to shift blame to workers for preventable accidents.

The Argument Against Stop Work Authority Policies in Offshore Work

Work Culture Might Prevent SWA Policies from Working

Often, exercising SWA is impractical. Employees who try to follow this policy quickly gain a reputation as a troublemaker instead of being commended for pointing out a safety hazard. In this way, the average offshore worker faces a difficult situation because of SWA: stop unsafe activity and get on a supervisor's bad side or do nothing and face potential injury. The worst part is that if the worker does nothing and is injured because of unsafe conditions his or her employers can deny a claim since he or she should have invoked SWA! Altogether, the supposed "right" seems to create nothing but bad options for offshore workers.

Likewise, SWA policies might be ineffective because of a worker’s perception of themselves at the job. For example, a new worker might implicitly trust the actions of veterans. So, if they notice an unsafe situation, they might be hesitant to point it out or exercise the SWA policy.

SWA Policies Place Unreasonable Burden on Workers

Another issue with SWA policies is how they operate on the assumption that employers have properly trained workers to identify hazards and safety issues. Often, accidents happen when employers fail to train their employees. When employers neglect safety training and procedures, it’s unfair and impractical to expect them to be confident or capable of identifying potentially dangerous situations. In other words, SWA policies might be unfair because they expect workers to identify dangers they haven’t been trained to recognize.

Stop Work Authority & the Bystander Effect

TheĀ bystander effect—also known as the diffusion of responsibility—is a psychological phenomenon where the presence of others influences a person’s decision to do something about an emergency. For example, when a car accident happens in a crowded area, people don’t always call for help because they assume one of the dozens of other nearby people will do so. Likewise, thanks to the bystander effect, workers might fail to use SWA policies out of an assumption that someone else will. Because of this, SWA policies might not just be unfair—they might be psychologically impractical!

Our Offshore Injury Lawyers Are Ready to Help You

If you have been injured while working offshore, regardless of whether you employed stop work authority to combat unsafe conditions or not, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Ultimately, employers are legally required to protect workers from accidents. This means training them, providing a safe work environment, and doing anything possible to prevent accidents, regardless of if they have an SWA policy or not.

At Arnold & Itkin LLP, we’ve seen large companies try to shift the blame to workers over and over. When we see them do this, we fight back to show them that accountability matters. We’ve helped clients recover billions of dollars—even when they’re facing some of the largest offshore companies in the world. Calling us means getting help from a team that refuses to let clients be mistreated. If the other side isn’t fair, we never hesitate to take them to court. Best of all, a consultation with our team is free when you call (888) 346-5024. We’re ready to help you discover what your options for recovery are.

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