The US Department of Labor (DOL) announced a new ruling proposed rule To expand the range of people who may be allowed to accompany OSHA compliance officers during workplace inspections.
Under the proposed rule, which was released Aug. 29, employees may authorize an employee or a non-employee third party if the OSHA compliance officer determines that the third party is reasonably necessary to conduct an effective and thorough inspection. The third party needs the inspector’s permission, not the employer’s.
The proposal makes it clear that these third party representatives will not be limited to industrial hygienists or safety engineers. They may be deemed reasonably necessary because they have skills, knowledge or experience that may help inform the compliance officer’s inspection. For example, they may have experience dealing with specific hazards or workplace conditions or language skills that can improve communications between OSHA representatives and workers.
“This proposal aims to make inspections more effective and ultimately make workplaces safer by increasing opportunities for employee representation in the inspection process,” said Doug Parker, Assistant Secretary of Occupational Safety and Health.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act gives employers and employees the right to have a representative authorized by them accompany OSH inspectors to assist in the investigation.
The proposed rule states, “Employee representation during an inspection is critical to ensuring that OSHA obtains necessary information about worksite conditions and hazards.”
Occupational Safety and Health is seeking public comment on the criteria and degree of respect the agency should accord to the selection of an employee representative in determining whether a third party may participate in the inspection process. Comments can be submitted By October 30th.
response from employers
Employers are worried about that union representatives John Sorma, an attorney with Ogletree-Dickens in Houston, said workers may use safety inspections as a way to reach out to specific workers and garner more union support.
“Having a union agent in a non-union workplace would immediately change the nature of inspection from an inspection focused on workplace safety to one driven by the union agenda,” said Mark Friedman, vice president of employment policy at the American Chamber of Commerce in the United States. Washington, DC
“While much of the focus is on union representatives who could be present, the way the proposed rule was worded could include personal injury attorneys, experienced personal injury attorneys, lobbyists and legal advocates for public interest groups,” Sorma said. “You will have people who have a vested interest in bringing a case against your employer because of the tragic conditions in the workplace.” OSHA inspections often follow an accident such as a life-threatening injury or death.
James Sullivan, an attorney with Cuisine O’Connor in Washington, D.C., said the proposed rule “would give the union the ability to speak with employees and obtain more information during a review.” “It’s not about safety.”
Employers also have protection concerns Trade secrets Surma said of the discovery by non-staff. He noted that “there is a process to protect trade secrets.”
Under this proposal, an OSHA inspector would still have the authority to prevent an individual from participating in a detailed inspection if their conduct interferes with a fair and orderly inspection or with an employer’s right to restrict entry to areas of the workplace that contain trade secrets.
However, Sullivan said, “the risk now is that an uninformed employer may not be careful enough that outsiders are not with an OSHA inspector” in areas containing trade secrets. “They could be bullied or insinuated into letting someone know about that trade secret area.”
Employers “should be concerned about this proposed rule because, at least so far, the agency has mixed the question of whether it is reasonably necessary to bring in a third party with the question of whether that third party is only able to make a positive contribution,” Taylor-Johnson said. , attorney with Keeler & Heckman in Washington, D.C.: “A thorough examination must be done.”
The proposed rule has some critics in Congress. “This (proposal) has absolutely nothing to do with keeping workers safe,” said US Representative Virginia Fox, Republican from North Carolina. “OSHA’s green light for union activists and activists to infiltrate non-union work sites during safety inspection rounds is blatantly intended to give unions access to employers’ private property and help organize efforts.”
However, Jordan Barab, former deputy assistant secretary of OSHA, said, “The goal of OSHA’s revised circumvention policy is not to help unionize, but to help workers go home alive at the end of the day. Especially workers who don’t have them.” unions. Even in the absence of a union organizing campaign.”