Federal Job Safety Commission Gets Hammer Award for Simplifying Employers' "Day in Court"


Contact: Linda Whitsett

Release 98-6

(202) 606-5398

November 16, 1998





The independent Federal agency that issues decisions in work place safety disputes will receive Vice President Albert Gore's Hammer Award for "simplifying and expediting" its decision-making by implementing a process called E-Z Trial. Pat Wood, a representative of the Vice President's National Partnership for Reinventing Government (NPR) will present the award at 10:30 a.m., November 17, 1998, at the agency's Washington, DC headquarters, 1120 20th St., N.W. NPR is the initiative lead by Vice President Gore to improve government service and efficiency. The Hammer Award recognizes Federal agencies whose work results in a government that works better and costs less.

The Review Commission, created by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, resolves disputes that start when an employer or group of employees or their union disagrees with some portion of a job safety or health citation issued by inspectors from another Federal agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  Each such case is assigned to one of the Review Commission's Administrative Law Judges (ALJ). Before E-Z Trial, many employers or employees did not get "their day in court" because they were confused by the legal process or technical legal rules or discouraged by the cost of hiring an attorney.  With E-Z Trial, contesting a citation became simpler, quicker and less costly, especially for small employers and those appearing without attorneys.

The new process eliminates pleadings, discourages discovery and requires the disclosure to employers of certain useful information concerning the inspection and citation, without compromising due process. In addition, complex federal rules of evidence, which can confound many non-lawyers, do not apply in E-Z Trial proceedings and post-hearing briefs are discouraged in favor of oral arguments at the hearing.  In 1998, roughly 25 per cent of OSHRC's cases were E-Z Trials. Cycle times for E-Z Trials were reduced by nearly 60 per cent compared to similar cases heard under the conventional trial process.  Employers receive a step-by-step plain english guide to E-Z Trial and an explanatory videotape.