(1) The board, upon request of the worker, beneficiary, or employer, or upon its own motion, may direct all parties interested in an appeal, together with their attorneys, if any, to appear before it, a member of the board, or an authorized industrial appeals judge, for a conference for the purpose of determining the feasibility of settlement, the simplification of issues of law and fact, the necessity of amendments to the notice of appeal or other pleadings, the possibility of obtaining admissions of fact and of documents which will avoid unnecessary proof, the limitation of the number of expert witnesses, and such other matters as may aid in the disposition of the appeal. Such conference may be held prior to the hearing, or it may be held during the hearing, at the discretion of the board member or industrial appeals judge conducting the same, in which case the hearing will be recessed for such conference. Following the conference, the board member or industrial appeals judge conducting the same, shall state on the record the results of such conference, and the parties present or their representatives shall state their concurrence on the record. Such agreement as stated on the record shall control the subsequent course of the proceedings, unless modified at a subsequent hearing to prevent manifest injustice. If agreement concerning final disposition of the appeal is reached by the parties present at the conference, or by the employer and worker or beneficiary, the board may enter a final decision and order in accordance therewith, providing the board finds such agreement is in conformity with the law and the facts.
(2) In order to carry out subsection (1) of this section, the board shall develop expertise to mediate disputes informally. Where possible, industrial appeals judges with a demonstrated history of successfully resolving disputes or who have received training in dispute resolution techniques shall be appointed to perform mediation functions. No industrial appeals judge who mediates in a particular appeal may, without the consent of the parties, participate in writing the proposed decision and order in the appeal: PROVIDED, That this shall not prevent an industrial appeals judge from issuing a proposed decision and order responsive to a motion for summary disposition or similar motion. This section shall not operate to prevent the board from developing additional methods and procedures to encourage resolution of disputes by agreement or otherwise making efforts to reduce adjudication time.