Trojan Horse Coming Soon: OSHA’s New “Walkaround” Rule

by | Feb 27, 2024 | DOL, Labor Relations Ink, Labor Relations Insight, Leadership, Legal, OSHA, Union Organizing

On February 9, 2024, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) advanced its final “walkaround” regulation to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for review, signaling the imminent publication of the rule. This rule has sparked opposition from the US Chamber and other business groups, likely resulting in legal challenges to the rule.

The rule proposes allowing union and third-party representatives to accompany inspectors during worksite evaluations, significantly altering the current dynamics of that process. This change is not merely about enhancing safety inspections; it represents a fundamental shift in employer control of their property and workplace privacy.

Picture this: a parade of union reps or attorneys, each with their own agenda, roaming your site as observers and active participants in the inspection process.

Employers face operational and privacy challenges under the new rule, which apparently does not limit the number of representatives during an inspection. This raises concerns about protecting sensitive business information and the rights and role of these external advocates. The rules for such visits and the roles of people walking around are very unclear.

This rule could serve as a Trojan horse for unionizing efforts. This isn’t just about safety—it’s about influence and, potentially, about shifting power dynamics. The legal implications are vast, with critics predicting a flurry of challenges and litigation. Employers will soon be on the front lines of a battle they didn’t choose, armed with policy manuals in a fight spilling into the courts.

And then there’s the privacy angle. The sanctity of proprietary information and workplace privacy is now at risk to persons unknown with potentially harmful agendas.  As an employer, the thought of external eyes and ears having a front-row seat to your operations should be unsettling.

While the rule is pitched as a safety measure, the repercussions ripple far beyond. It opens the door to union access in non-unionized settings, something many employers will view with well-deserved skepticism. The question isn’t just about who walks through the door during an inspection but about what doors might open as a result.

The rule’s finalization may be imminent, but the dialogue it sparks is just beginning. Employers should be strategic about preparing for this change and engage in conversation around the legality and need for the change.


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