View all Articles

OSHA Finalizes a Rule to Allow Third Parties to Represent Employees During Walkarounds

On April 1, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule that allows third parties to represent employees during workplace inspections whether they are employees or non-employees of the Organization. The rule, which is effective on May 31, 2024, would allow employees to designate a representative who may have a variety of skills, knowledge, or experience that could aid the inspection to accompany them during OSHA walkarounds. 

What is the reason for the updated rule?  

In 2017, a federal district court interpreted the OSHA regulations to only allow employees to designate a representative from their own employer to accompany them during walkarounds. The final rule changes this by explicitly allowing employees to designate any third-party representative of their choosing. Additionally, the final rule also emphasizes that the chosen third-party representative should possess relevant skills or knowledge that can contribute to a thorough inspection; this could include expertise in specific workplace hazards, knowledge of similar work environments, or fluency in a particular language to bridge communication gaps. This means that the chosen representative will no longer be limited to the examples provided in the prior regulations of Industrial Hygienists or Safety Engineers. 

The final rule also clarifies that inspectors can deny a third-party representative if their presence is deemed disruptive or if they lack a legitimate purpose. 

Next Steps 

Here’s what employers facing an OSHA walkaround inspection should do: 

Preparation is Key 

  • Consult with legal counsel: Consult with legal counsel on what to expect and what documents to provide if asked by an inspector. 
  • Designate a knowledgeable representative: Appoint a manager familiar with OSHA standards and your safety programs to accompany the inspector to the area of complaint. 
  • Gather relevant documentation: Have safety manuals, training records, recent inspection reports, and any accident logs readily available for the inspector’s review (i.e., OSHA 300 logs, 300A summaries, or 301 forms and SDS data sheets). 

During the Walkaround 

  • Employee rights: Inform employees of their right to have a representative (co-worker or designated third party) present during the inspection. 
  • Accompany the inspector: The designated employer representative should accompany the inspector throughout the walkaround, answering questions truthfully and to the best of their knowledge.  
  • Focus on safety: If any violations are identified, demonstrate a willingness to address them promptly. 
  • Take notes: Keep a detailed record of the areas inspected, questions asked, and any photographs or samples taken by the inspector. 

Following the Inspection 

  • Closing conference: Attend the closing conference where the inspector will discuss their findings and potential citations. 
  • Respond promptly: If citations are issued, respond to OSHA within the designated timeframe (usually 15 business days) outlining corrective actions taken or planned. 
  • Maintain focus on safety: Regardless of the outcome, prioritize rectifying any identified hazards and ensuring a safe work environment for your employees. 

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.