OSHA inspectors may be accompanied by “outsiders” such as union representatives during inspections under a revived Obama-era rule.
This rule would allow non-unionized workforces to designate representatives to participate in an inspection, subject to the OSHA inspector’s discretion.
The agency proposed reviving this rule in January 2023, according to law firm Baker & Hostetler. This rule would “permit worker-designated representatives to accompany OSHA during the inspection process, regardless of whether the representative is an employee of the workplace being inspected.”
If adopted, this rule would renew an Obama-era policy that ended in 2017. The rule would:
- clarify the role of union representatives during inspections, and
- enable non-unionized workforces to designate union representatives to participate in inspections, “subject only to the requirement that the compliance officer deems the representative’s presence ‘reasonably necessary to an effective and thorough physical inspection.'”
Could put undue pressure on inspectors
Those who support the policy believe this would help mitigate employees’ fear of retaliation when they report hazards since workers feel they can speak more freely to a worker representative than they can to an OSHA inspector. Critics see the rule as a back door for unions to avoid the bargaining process.
Both sides have expressed concerns about conditioning participation exclusively on the judgment of the OSHA inspector, who could be subjected to unnecessary outside pressure because of the rule.
The agency is looking to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in May 2023, with a possible effective date in 2024 or later, if adopted.