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OSHA set to publish final rule on worker walkaround representation

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Washington — OSHA’s final rule on worker walkaround representation is set to go into effect May 31.

Scheduled at press time to be published April 1, the rule will let workers designate someone who doesn’t work for their employer – including a labor union member – to represent them during the “walkaround” part of an OSHA inspection.

Under OSHA 1903.8, a walkaround representative “shall be an employee(s) of the employer.” However, the regulation also allows an OSHA inspector, also known as a compliance safety and health officer, to make a judgment call on whether a third party can participate in the walkaround.

An agency press release states: “For a nonemployee representative to accompany the compliance officer in a workplace, they must be reasonably necessary to conduct an effective and thorough inspection.”

A nonemployee representative, the rule clarifies, could be “reasonably necessary” based on skills, knowledge or experience.

“This experience may include knowledge or experience with hazards or conditions in the workplace or similar workplaces, or language or communication skills to ensure an effective and thorough inspection,” the release adds. “These revisions better align OSHA’s regulation with the [Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970] and enable the agency to conduct more effective inspections. OSHA regulations require no specific qualifications for employer representatives or for employee representatives who are employed by the employer.”

OSHA first proposed the change in August.

“Worker involvement in the inspection process is essential for thorough and effective inspections and making workplaces safer,” OSHA administrator Doug Parker said in the release. “The [OSH 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.”

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