Hearing tackles OSHRC efficiency concerns

Washington – After recently resolving a backlog of decades-old cases, the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission convened a hearing last month to discuss resolving cases more effectively.

The hearing primarily focused on the commissioner level, which is composed of three commissioners who hear and rule on cases appealing decisions from administrative law judges, who in turn hear and rule on citation and penalty disputes between employers and OSHA.

In fiscal year 2011, the commissioners – who are presidentially appointed – resolved all long-standing cases, but OSHRC Chair Thomasina Rogers expressed concern that a backlog could build again.

One of the major hurdles facing the commission is when fewer than three commissioners are hearing disputes, as is often and currently the case. No satisfactory mechanism is available for resolving cases when the vote is split due to commissioner vacancies or recusals, according to Rogers.

Other issues discussed during the hearing included the lack of a method for reaching a settlement between the parties at the commissioner level, and how commissioners cannot manage the decision process to give priority to certain cases.

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