OSHA’s Final “Walkaround” Rule – What Employers Need to Know

On April 1, 2024, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published its final rule on clarifying who can accompany OSHA inspectors during workplace inspections. This “Worker Walkaround Representative Designation Process Rule” is set to take effect on May 31, 2024, and will bring clarity and guidance to an essential aspect of workplace safety compliance.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, both employers and employees have the right to designate a representative to accompany OSHA officials during inspections. This representative, commonly referred to as a “walkaround” representative, plays a crucial role in ensuring a fair and thorough examination of workplace conditions.

The recent rule published by the DOL aims to align regulations with the Occupational Safety and Health Act and historical practices regarding the designation of employee representatives. While both employees and non-employees can serve as representatives, the rule clarifies the criteria for non-employee representatives.

Key points to be aware of:

  • Non-employee representatives must be “reasonably necessary” for an effective inspection, as determined by the OSHA Compliance Officer. This necessity is based on factors such as relevant skills, knowledge, experience, and communication abilities.
  • Contrary to some expectations, formal credentials such as industrial hygiene or safety engineering certifications are not required for employee-designated representatives. Employers have no formal process to object to these representatives, but objections can be raised with the OSHA Compliance Officer, who will assess the representative’s qualifications.
  • Employers are allowed to require employee representatives to sign reasonable confidentiality agreements, provided such agreements are consistent with those required of other visitors at the worksite.
  • Neither the employer nor the employee representative has an automatic right to be present during private OSHA interviews of employees. However, if requested by the interviewed employee, the representative can be present.

It’s crucial for employers to understand and adhere to these new regulations to ensure compliance with OSHA standards. Employers should familiarize themselves with the criteria for both employee and non-employee representatives and be prepared to address any objections they may have.

This new rule aims to enhance the effectiveness and fairness of OSHA inspections, ultimately contributing to improved safety outcomes in workplaces across the United States.  By understanding the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved, employers can facilitate smoother inspections and maintain a safe working environment for their employees.  Let IFO Group know if you would like assistance reviewing your existing OSHA inspection procedures to ensure that you are prepared for a future inspection.  Contact us at info@ifogroup.com or at 832-403-2135 to request a free consultation.