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OSHA to Allow Union Agents to Participate in Safety Inspections of Non-Union Worksites

- July 2013

In a recent interpretation letter, an OSHA official has declared that non-union employees may select anyone – including a union official or a community organizer – to act as their “personal representative,” and accompany an OSHA compliance officer when inspecting a non-unionized employer’s workplace. This letter contradicts OSHA’s own regulations and the agency’s longstanding practice of not permitting non-employees to participate in workplace safety inspections except in extraordinary cases.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act authorizes OSHA to conduct workplace safety inspections, and also allows the employees to select a representative to accompany the inspector. However, OSHA regulations state that the employees’ representative “shall be an employee(s) of the employer [being inspected],” unless “good cause is shown why accompaniment by a third party who is not an employee of the employer (such as an industrial hygienist or a safety engineer) is reasonably necessary to conduct an effective and thorough physical inspection of the workplace.” (29 CFR 1903.8(c)).

Clearly the agency’s regulation prohibits the presence of a non-employee during a safety inspection, except in a rare instance where “good cause” is established for such third party involvement. If faced with the possibility of an OSHA inspector inviting a non-employee along for an inspection, an employer is well advised to confer with its legal professionals before allowing OSHA to proceed.

The interpretation letter may be viewed at: