On August 29, 2023, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would permit union representatives and other nonemployees to participate in workplace inspections conducted by Occupational Safety and Health Act Compliance and Safety Officers (CSHOs).
Section 8(e) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) currently allows “a representative of the employer and a representative authorized by employees the opportunity to accompany CHSOs during the physical inspection of the workplace for the purpose of aiding the inspection.” The OSHA and 29 CFR part 1903 give CSHOs the authority to resolve any disputes about who the employer and employee representatives are and to deny any person from participating in the inspection whose conduct interferes with a fair and orderly investigation. The CSHO also has the authority to permit additional employer representatives and representative authorized by employees to participate in the workplace walk-throughs. See 29 CFR 1903.8(a).
OSHA has historically mandated that the representative authorized by employees for a worksite inspection be an actual employee. Over the years, OSHA has offered guidance on its interpretation of section 1903.8(c) and the definition of “representative authorized by employees”. In 2003, OSHA issued a letter of interpretation (the Racic Letter) in response to the question of whether a union representative who files a complaint on behalf of a single worker could act as a walk-through inspection representative in a workplace that had no labor agreement. OSHA determined that there was “no provision for a walkaround representative who has filed a complaint on behalf of an employee of the workplace.” See, ID OSHA – 2023-0008-0002. Ten years later, in 2013, OSHA issued a second letter of interpretation (the Sallman Letter) stating that workers at a worksite without a collective bargaining agreement could designate a union or community organization for purposes of an OHSA walk-through inspection as long as it had been “authorized by employees to serve as their representative”. …