The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released an interpretation letter April 5, 2013, clarifying that nonunion employees can select anyone, including nonemployee union representatives, to accompany OSHA officials during safety inspections of their employer’s worksite.
OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary Richard Fairfax stated in the letter that OSHA allows workers at establishments without collective bargaining agreements to designate who will act on their behalf during inspections.
The letter, dated Feb. 21, 2013, was in response to a request from Steve Sallman, a health and safety specialist with the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union.
Sallman had asked whether workers at a nonunionized workplace could authorize a person affiliated with a union to act as their representative under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. This would include “representing the employee(s) as a personal representative” and “accompanying the employee on an OSHA inspection” in a nonunionized workplace.
Fairfax responded affirmatively that employees in a workplace without a collective bargaining agreement may designate a union-affiliated individual to act as their personal representative. In this capacity, nonemployee personal representatives may file complaints on behalf of an employee, request workplace inspections, participate in informal conferences, contest the abatement period in OSHA citations and participate in contest proceedings.
As for nonemployees accompanying OSHA officials during inspections, the actual OSHA standard states: “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