By Eric J. Conn and Mark Trapp
We wanted to reach out to notify you about OSHA’s latest gift to organized labor. Consistent with the Biden Administration’s promise to be “the most labor-friendly administration in history,” last week, OSHA revealed its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking about the “Worker Walkaround Representative Designation Process.” Specifically, OSHA proposes to amend 29 CFR 1903.8(c), which is the regulation governing the rights of third parties to participate as employee representatives in OSHA inspections. The NPRM for OSHA’s Inspection Walkaround Rule would greatly expand when non-employees can accompany OSHA inspectors during physical inspections at your workplaces. Specifically, the proposed rule would open the door to third parties, including specifically union representatives even at non-union workplaces, if the OSHA compliance officer determines the third party would positively impact the inspection.
History of Union Access to Workplaces During OSHA Inspections
As a reminder, The Obama/Biden Administration tried to contort the meaning of the Inspection Walkaround regulation by granting union representatives the ability to participate in OSHA inspections at non-union workplaces by way of a formal letter of interpretation in February 2013. The interpretation letter responded to this inquiry by a labor union: “May workers at a worksite without a collective bargaining agreement designate a person affiliated with a union or a community organization to act on their behalf as a walkaround representative?”
OSHA has an existing regulation at 29 C.F.R. § 1903.8(c) that speaks to this issue, and it sets a strong bias against third party participation in OSHA inspections, unless the third party has some special skill (such as industrial hygienist or a language translator) that OSHA is lacking. Here is the existing regulatory text: Continue reading
By Eric J. Conn and Lindsay A. Smith
OSHA has broad authority to conduct workplace enforcement inspections, and such enforcement efforts have reached record levels under the Obama Administration. OSHA gathers virtually all of the evidence it needs to substantiate a citation during inspections. Accordingly, it is essential that employers know and assert their rights during OSHA inspections. Below are three specific, important rights that Employers have during OSHA inspections.
1. Insist on an Opening Conference
The Opening Conference is the most important stage of an OSHA inspection. Employers have the right to an opening conference, and should always require that OSHA provide one before officially beginning an onsite inspection. First, an Opening Conference is the employer’s last chance to avoid an inspection altogether. During the Opening Conference, OSHA must explain why your workplace is being inspected, and if there are holes in that explanation (e.g., incorrect application of an emphasis program, non-credible employee complaint, or a programmed inspection too soon after a prior inspection), you could convince OSHA that the inspection should not proceed. If the inspection will proceed, the Opening Conference is the time for employers to negotiate the scope of the inspection. For example, if OSHA is there because of an employee complaint, employers should negotiate with OSHA to limit the inspection to only the subject(s) of the complaint, and not consent to a wall-to-wall inspection. Employers can also establish ground rules for the inspection (e.g., require written document requests, arrange employee interviews in advance, and require a management escort for access to the facility).
Another benefit of asking lots of questions, engaging in meaningful negotiations over the scope of the inspection and explaining your ground rules, in addition to ensuring a smooth inspection, is that a long lasting Opening Conference will allow managers time to conduct a final walkthrough of the facility to address any low hanging fruit and advise the workforce of OSHA’s presence before the inspection starts in earnest.
2. Accompany the CSHO at All Times
As part of an inspection, the CSHO will conduct a walkaround of the workplace. During the walkaround, a management representative should always Continue reading