Federal agencies Safety culture

Employees deserve greater participation in OSHRC hearings, petitioners say

UPDATE: This article was updated Jan. 30 to include OSHRC's comments on potential rule changes.

Longmeadow, MA – A coalition of unions and other safety advocacy groups has petitioned the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission to amend its procedural regulations and permit greater employee participation during hearings.

OSHRC resolves disputes between employers and OSHA regarding citations and penalties. The commission’s hearing process is similar to a criminal or civil trial: An administration law judge hears and rules on the case, the result of which can later be appealed to a group of three commissioners.

The current rules outlining how employees can participate in OSHRC hearings create “unreasonable obstacles,” according to the petitioners. For example, an affected employee may participate in hearings, but the coalition claims the definition of “affected employee” is too narrow. The current definition may exclude temporary or contract workers exposed to hazards created by an employer other than their own.

“Increased participation by employees in enforcement proceedings would ensure that those most directly affected by conditions alleged to violate the [Occupational Safety and Health] Act have a say in whether and how those violations will be remedied,” the petition states.

Four groups signed the petition:

  • The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health
  • North America’s Building Trades Unions
  • Change to Win
  • United Steelworkers

OSHRC is currently examining potential rule changes, and the group’s petition will be considered along with other recommendations submitted to the commission, an OSHRC spokesperson said. The rule change process has no timeline for completion, she added.