What Does Stop Work Authority (SWA) Mean?
Stop work authority (SWA) is an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) program that gives workers and contractors the authority and responsibility to stop work if they observe unsafe conditions or behaviors on the jobsite.
Safeopedia Explains Stop Work Authority (SWA)
Stop work authority is mentioned in OSHA standard 1926.1418, which states that “Whenever there is a concern as to safety, the operator must have the authority to stop and refuse to handle loads until a qualified person has determined that safety has been assured.”
Rights Protection Under the OSH Act
Under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, Employers cannot retaliate against employees for refusing unsafe work. Such retaliatory action includes firing, blacklisting, demoting, denying benefits or promotions, intimidation or threats, and reducing pay. If an employer takes retaliatory action, employees can file a complaint with OSHA within 30 days of the retaliation.
OSHA recommends bringing unsafe or unhealthy conditions to the attention of the employer. Complaints can also be filed with OSHA if hazardous conditions at work are present. If the situation presents an immediate danger to life or serious physical harm and time is insufficient to bring the matter to the employer’s attention or for an OSHA inspection, the employee has the legal right to refuse to work.
Worker Hesitation in SWA Application
Some reasons workers hesitate to take action in a potentially dangerous situation include:
- Underestimating the danger of the situation
- Assuming that they do not have the authority to get involved
- If other workers are not taking action, the worker may assume it is not necessary
- Assuming others know more about the situation than them and would take action if any was warranted
- Believing that completing the work is more urgent than doing it safely
The SWA Process
The SWA process has several steps:
- Stop working immediately when perceiving a dangerous situation
- Notify coworkers, supervisors, and any other relevant individuals of the stop-work action
- Investigate the situation and come to an agreement on whether work should resume or be suspended until the risk is mitigated
- Necessary corrections shall be made and inspected by qualified experts to verify that the issue has been resolved and that work can proceed safely
- Resume work once the relevant authority has approved of the situation and issued a notice that corrective actions have been implemented
- Follow up from management in the form of investigations, improvements, or relevant reports