What is Stop Work Authority (SWA)?

On Behalf of | May 31, 2022 | Commercial Seamen, Longshore And Harbor Workers |

When you’re working on or around vessels, one of the things to consider is if you have and can use Stop Work Authority (SWA). Stop Work Authority is a program that provides contracted workers and employees with a right to stop working if they perceive behaviors or conditions that are unsafe for them in the workplace.

There are some different situations that might result in the need to stop working. These may include:

  • Emergency situations, such as severe weather or an accident
  • Improper equipment usage
  • Unsafe acts
  • Unsafe conditions
  • Poor knowledge about a situation or device
  • Changes in the scope of a person’s job or work for the day
  • Changes in the conditions on the work site

These and other situations may lead to a SWA.

What happens when a stop-work intervention is initiated?

When a stop-work intervention is initiated, the employee or worker stops working right away. They should talk to a supervisor, if one is available, to discuss the imminent danger or other issues leading to the stoppage of work.

After this, dangerous acts should be stopped and the area should be made as safe as possible. At that time, the situation can be investigated. If possible, corrections will be made, and work can then be resumed safely.

Are you able to stop working legally?

Yes. If it’s dangerous in the environment and posing a real threat to yourself or others, then you may have a right to stop working until those conditions are corrected. Some jobs are innately dangerous and will always have hazards, but when the risks outweigh the benefits of the job, it may be appropriate to halt work for a short time.

For example, if you work at sea and normally deal with rough waters, you may continue working in those conditions until they reach a point where working causes a real risk of serious harm or death. At that time, you may pause activities until you feel that it is safe enough to continue.

Every situation is different, so get to know SWA cases and when it’s appropriate to stop work when you feel you are at risk on the job.