To better understand the law with respect to the roles and responsibilities of the occupational safety, health, and environmental professional, you will need to be able to read and understand court decisions and other legal decisions. You can utilize a process that involves reading, analyzing, and briefing decisions. This method is presented in the Preface of our course text.

For this assignment, you are required to read, analyze, and brief one Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission decision by Administrative Law Judges or Commissioners. You should note that the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission is an independent agency of the U.S. Government that was established by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to function like a court to resolve certain disputes under the Act. You can access these decisions from the Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission (Links to an external site.) website.

 

There ar two areas of OSHA law that you might find in developing your case briefs that should be clarified. The first is OSHA’s General Duty Clause. In order for OSHA to invoke the General Duty Clause, when there is not an existing OSHA regulation that addresses the hazard, the following conditions must all be present:

1. whether a hazard exists;

2. whether that hazard is recognized;

3. whether the hazard is causing, or is likely to cause, serious physical harm to employees; and

4. whether a feasible means exists to reduce the hazard.

The second is an often-used defense of “employee misconduct.” The argument typically goes that the employer told the employee to do it properly and it isn’t the employer’s fault the employee chose not to do so. The “unpreventable employee misconduct defense” is a hard case to prove, but here is a summary (Links to an external site.) of the issue from a law point of view. To summarize, there must also be four conditions:

1. The employer had in place a work rule adequate to prevent the violation;

2. The employer effectively communicated the rule to employees;

3. The employer established methods for discovering violations of work rules, and yet did not know about an isolated violation of the work rules; and

4. The employer can show documented enforcement of the rule when violations were discovered.

Using the format in the Preface, provide a brief of the case. Note that a case brief is not a summary of the whole incident or the OSHA inspection, but rather, a summary of the issues and the facts on each side of the legal argument and why it went to court in the first case. The “issues” are those in which the two sides disagree (and in most cases, the violation that OSHA issued with which the employer disagrees). 

The “facts” are the facts presented on each side of the argument for each issue. To be specific, in your brief, be sure to include the argument the employer is making to say whatever it was cited for isn’t a valid citation. Also, be sure to include the facts that OSHA presented to show that it was a violation. 

These, and the letter and the spirit of the law, are the specific issues on which the judge must make the findings, and he or she does so based on the facts presented. Then be sure to provide your opinion on the court’s decision, also based on the facts presented. 

As part of your opinion on the court’s decision, explain the importance of the role of the court system in interpreting regulations and influencing how occupational safety and health and environmental laws are implemented.

Keep the summary of the incident itself to a bare minimum except for how it impacts the court case. The brief is more about the court findings and the legal arguments, not the incident itself.

This assignment will enable you to complete the following: effectively search for and locate safety and health-related decisions from the OSHRC; research, read, and analyze decisions; better understand the law with respect to occupational safety, occupational health, and the environment; and, utilize decisions to improve safety and health compliance for work organizations.

The brief should be compiled into an APA formatted paper that includes a title page and appropriate citations and references but does not require an abstract. There is no paper length requirement, but each briefing is generally three pages when double spaced.