Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, there were fewer attempts to appeal OSHA citations in fiscal year 2020, according to a report from the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC).
Employers filed 1,845 appeals with the OSHRC in FY 2020, down 8.5% from the 2,017 filed in FY 2019.
The OSHRC attributes the decrease in the number of appeals “for FY 2020 to the circumstances created by the National Emergency declared on March 13, 2020, due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).”
OSHA’s inspection numbers were also down for the year, according to the report, dropping to 21,589 from FY 2019’s 33,401, a 35% drop.
Along with the new cases, there were 1,248 cases carried over from 2019 for a total of 3,093 cases, the report states.
A total of 1,834 of those cases were resolved, leaving 1,259 cases to roll over into FY 2021.
The OSHRC’s administrative law judges resolved:
- 97% of simplified cases within one year
- 96% of conventional cases within 17 months, and
- 96% of settlement cases within 19 months.
Those numbers met the targeted goals set by the OSHRC, but there were two goals that were off target for the year, including:
- electronically initiating only 98% of all pleadings received in the OSHRC electronic-filing system, with the target goal being 100%, and
- resolving only 94% of complex cases, which was just shy of the 95% required to meet the target goal.
More complex cases
These targets were missed because the complexity of cases increased the amount of time it required for the administrative law judges to provide a decision.
Cases were more complex because of:
- OSHA’s focus on encouraging more resource- and time-intensive inspections, and
- the Office of Solicitor’s decision to leverage resources and focus away from high-volume in favor of high-impact strategic cases.
This is a challenge for the OSHRC “because processing such cases requires the judges to invest a greater amount of time in handling the matters.”
Full commission data
The full commission received a total of 29 new cases in FY 2020 compared to 10 in FY 2019, which were added to the 19 cases rolled over from the previous year for a total of 48 cases.
Twenty-five of those cases were resolved, leaving 23 to roll over into FY 2021 “so that the end-of-year inventory continues to be at one of the lowest levels in five years.”
The full commission met all of its targeted goals for FY 2020, including:
- resolving 100% of all priority cases within six months
- reducing the average age of all pending full commission cases to 14 months from direction for review, and
- reducing the number of full commission cases over two years in age.