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OSHA’s new rule clarifies employee representative rights in workplace inspection

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OSHA’s new rule clarifies employee representative rights in workplace inspection

A controversial rule designed to broaden employees’ rights to allow outside representatives – including labour union representatives – to join them during safety inspections will come into effect from May 31, 2024.

The Department of Labour’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently released a final rule  amending the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970, clarifying who can serve as an employee representative to accompany the OSHA Compliance Safety and Health Officer (CSHO) during physical workplace inspections.

The rule revives policy that was originally implemented in 2013, then later rescinded due to a lawsuit that argued the regulation should have undergone formal rulemaking, according to an article published in Engineering News Record.

The final rule amends the OSH Act to state that “[t]he representative(s) authorized by employees may be an employee of the employer or a third party.”

Employees may bring in outside representatives to accompany OSHA inspectors during the workplace’s physical inspection. This representative can now include anyone with “relevant knowledge, skills, or experience with hazards or conditions in the workplace or similar workplaces, or language or communication skills.”

The CSHO, however, retains their authority to determine whether good cause has been shown why a third-party representative is “reasonably necessary to the conduct of an effective and thorough physical inspection of the workplace.”

Contractors pushed back vehemently against the rule when it was first proposed, with many arguing that it conflicts with the National Labour Relations Act  and ignores the rights of employees who have chosen not to have union representation.

In an article on the American Society of Employers’ website.,  Greg Sizemore, Vice President of Health, Safety, Environment and Workforce Development for ABC said that “By allowing outside union agents access to non-union employers’ private property, OSHA is injecting itself into labour-management disputes and casting doubt on its status as a neutral enforcer of the law.”

“…By giving workers a stronger voice in inspecting their workplaces and correcting preventable hazards, OSHA’s new walk around rule can play an important role in reducing the risk of occupational illnesses, injuries and fatalities,” National COSH Co-Executive Director Jessica E. Martinez said in a statement. “With a trusted worker representative onsite, safety inspections can more effectively capture the first-hand knowledge workers have about work processes and potential hazards. A representative selected by workers can also bridge language barriers and reduce the fear of retaliation, which is often a major barrier in gathering accurate information about workplace conditions…”

Though the new rule will soon go into effect, many experts believe that the matter is far from settled. Labour law firm Proskauer Rose LLP issued a statement saying that “it bears watching whether the final rule will be challenged in federal court, as many other recent agency rule pronouncements – particularly by the National Labour Relations Board – have been challenged.”


Proprietary blog of Karma Global – collated and compiled by the internal staff of Karma Global  with the knowledge and expertise that they possess,  besides adaptation, illustration, derivation, transformation, collection and auto generation for its monthly newsletter Issue 23  of  May  2024  and in case of specific or general information or compliance updates for that matter, kindly reach out to the Marketing Team – mudra@karmamgmt.com

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