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May 01, 2013
OSHA: Nonunion employees can designate a union 'walkaround representative'

OSHA says nonunion employees may name someone affiliated with a union or community organization without a collective bargaining agreement to act as their representative during an OSHA inspection. In a letter of interpretation, OSHA also noted that compliance officers have discretion over who participates in workplace inspections.

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Deputy Assistant Labor Secretary Richard Fairfax explained in the letter that “walk around representatives” are typically employed by the workplace being inspected. However, he also stated, “There may be times when the presence of an employee representative who is not employed by that employer will allow a more effective inspection.”

According to Fairfax, outside representatives could be valuable in certain cases because of their experience and skill in evaluating similar working conditions in a different plant. There are also instances in which non-English speaking workers want a representative who is fluent in their language and in English.

OSHA emphasizes that letters of interpretation do not create new or additional requirements. Their purpose is to explain rules and how they apply in particular circumstances.

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