This is another good comment posted anonymously that deserves some thought and discussion, and I need to thank the author for taking the time to write it. Even though I agree almost word-for-word with the commenter, in a later post I'll explain why, unfortunately, it can't work.
[To answer commenter John's question, within OSHA, SOL means Solicitor of Labor (it never even occurred to me that it could mean Secretary of Labor, we just say "The Secretary").]
"As much as I have reservations asking for legal help, I do believe the following suggestions would greatly enhance enforcement process at the field level.
That is, staff Area Offices with SOL attorneys for the purpose of assisting CSHOs with inspection activities and case file preparation. Foremost, the attorneys must serve their client and not the other way around. This could reduce friction between OSHA / SOL and generate much better case file documentation. Most importantly, pro-active SOL participation at the inspection level will signal to employers that the “game” is over and that OSHA means business.
Currently, many companies know that SOL will not go to trial and, as such, they play this point to the max ... in order to get the citations dropped. I have even seen folks bragging on the blogs about this strategy. Astute “lawyering strategies” from employers' counsel must be countered by better field SOL and Area Office cooperation. This is critical to uphold worker protection actions. Working together will help CSHOs get investigation facts through the subpoena process while at the same time using our attorney’s to reduce opposing counsels’ interference. How many times have you heard an employer demand to sit in on employee interviews? The opposing counsel bullying will be reduced with up-front SOL support.
I have asked for engineering and SOL support during major investigation efforts in the past and, due to resource constraints or ignorance, received no assistance from the region – that is, until it was time to critique the investigation facts after the closing conference. You know the story thereafter … Adequate resources, such as SOL and engineering support, must be readily available at each Area Office. Some regions do not have these important engineering resources and if they do, Area Directors are hesitant to give them up do to their own office goals.
In terms of Agency growth, let’s consider strengthening what we have rather than running out and simply hiring more to do the same that gets thrown back in the Area Offices’ face by the Region and SOL. With a well-thought-out approach, the Agency may even consider measuring itself by the outcome of the inspection (after settlement), rather than simply by the citations that are proposed. We all know that the Agency’s real effectiveness is the outcome of the investigation. The evaluation of OSHA’s effectiveness needs improvement and should eventually monitor the post-inspection injury/illness improvements after OSHA activities. Until then, it would help to measure the final outcomes of inspections in terms of settlement results instead of what citations are proposed … due to the disparity of the two sets of data."