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The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) on Monday published its final rule clarifying that employees may designate a non-employee third party as their representative during an OSHA workplace inspection. 

The National Association of Manufacturers said March 29 the rule violates OSHA’s statutory mandate to conduct inspections within ‘reasonable limits and in a reasonable manner’ with ‘minimum burden’ on employers. 

“Today’s rule does nothing to advance OSHA’s mission of ensuring safe working conditions. Forcing businesses to accommodate third parties with no safety expertise in their facilities infringes on employers’ property rights, invites new liabilities and introduces elements of chaos and disruption to safety inspections,” said NAM’s Chief Legal Officer Linda Kelly. 

Under this rule, for the first time, OSHA would determine who qualifies as an ‘authorized representative’ of employees, which until now has been exclusively recognized as the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board. 

“This is another clear example of the federal regulatory onslaught—a proposal that upends settled precedent and ignores the reasoned decision-making required by the Administrative Procedure Act,” Kelly said. “For these reasons, the NAM will be considering legal action to reverse this incredibly destabilizing decision.” 

The Worker Walkaround Representative Designation Process Rule, which was published in the Federal Register on Monday, takes effect on May 31. 

Under the rule, employees may either select another employee or a non-employee third party to serve as their representative during an inspection. Additionally, the regulation no longer suggests that non-employee third-party representatives be limited to individuals with formal credentials, such as safety engineers or industrial hygienists.