DOL Issues Final Rule Expanding Worker Representation During OSHA Inspections

DOL Issues Final Rule Expanding Worker Representation During OSHA Inspections

The new rule allows external individuals to accompany OSHA officers during inspection.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued a final rule that expands the rights of employees regarding representation during OSHA inspections. 

According to a release dated March 29, this development clarifies that workers now have the authority to designate either a fellow employee or an external individual to accompany OSHA compliance officers during evaluations of their work environments. OSHA permitted employers and employees to choose a representative for this purpose. 

The recent rule adjustment specifies that non-employee representatives can participate in the process if necessary to conduct an effective inspection. This necessity is determined by expertise in identifying workplace hazards, familiarity with relevant work environments, and language skills crucial for ensuring comprehensive inspections.

The clarification follows a 2017 court ruling that interpreted existing regulations to limit representation to employees only. This interpretation was challenged, noting the law does not limit choice of employee representatives to internal staff. The court recognized OSHA's practice of allowing external representatives as a valid interpretation of the law.

"Worker involvement in the inspection process is essential for thorough and effective inspections and making workplaces safer," OSHA Assistant Secretary Doug Parker said in a statement. "The Occupational Safety and Health Act gives employers and employees equal opportunity for choosing representation during the OSHA inspection process, and this rule returns us to the fair, balanced approach Congress intended."

Set to take effect on May 31, 2024, this rule aims to enhance the effectiveness of workplace inspections and, ultimately, improve safety standards across various industries by allowing workers to have representatives with specific skills or knowledge.

About the Author

Robert Yaniz Jr. is the Content Editor of Occupational Health & Safety.

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