By Eric J. Conn and Mark Trapp
Earlier this month, OSHA issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for a “Worker Walkaround Representative Designation Process” Rule, which would expand the circumstances when non-employees, particularly union representatives at non-union workplaces, can accompany OSHA inspectors during enforcement inspections.
The proposed rule would allow union representatives, other labor or community activist groups, and even plaintiffs’ attorneys (or their expert witnesses) direct and early access to non-union workplaces and employees, potentially as a front for organizing campaigns where they otherwise would not have access or to advance personally injury lawsuits. Similarly, the rule could allow competitors, contractors, or others onsite to employers’ detriment.
The Washington Legal Foundation featured an article by Eric J. Conn of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice and Mark Trapp of CMC’s Labor & Employment Practice about this development. Here is a link to the WLF article.
Employers OSHA Inspection Walkaround Rulemaking Coalition
With that backdrop, we understand that employers have a strong interest in having a seat at the table for this rulemaking. To that end, Conn Maciel Carey’s OSHA Practice and Labor Law Practice are collaborating to organize a fee-based company-anonymous coalition of employers and trade groups to advocate for the most reasonable possible fed OSHA regulation about third party participation in OSHA inspections. Continue reading
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 Aaron Gelb, Eric Conn, and Ashley Mitchell
Consistent with the Biden Administration’s promise to be “the most labor friendly administration” in history,” OSHA recently announced plans to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPRM”), as early as this Spring, to amend 29 CFR 1903.8(c), which is the regulation governing the rights to participate in OSHA inspections by non-employees of the inspected employer.
OSHA-savvy employers may remember that OSHA tried during the Obama/Biden Administration to give union representatives the ability to participate in OSHA inspections at non-union workplaces by way of a formal letter of interpretation in February 2013, commonly referred to as “the Fairfax Memo.” The interpretation letter responded to an inquiry by a labor union about inspection rights:
“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?”
The question must be considered in the context of the existing regulatory text of 29 C.F.R. 1903.8(c):
“The representative(s) authorized by employees shall be an employee(s) of the employer. However, if in the judgment of the Compliance Safety and Health Officer, good cause has been 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 the conduct of an effective and thorough physical inspection of the workplace, such third party may accompany the Compliance Safety and Health Officer during the inspection.”
Notwithstanding a pretty clear regulatory limitation to third party inspection participation rights, OSHA’s responded to the unions interpretation request in the affirmative, explaining that notwithstanding: Continue reading