OSHA to Allow Unions and “Community Members” to Tag Along on Inspections

OSHA plans to allow worker advocates like unions and “community members” to tag along during OSHA inspections – even if the employees are not in a union.

While most people know me as an attorney who defends companies from unions. I also deal with OSHA. A lot.

You would be surprised to know how often a safety guard goes missing from a machine, or any number of other OSHA violations just magically appear, when employees are embattled in a union organizing campaign.

I remember this rule from 2013 when President Obama introduced it. Then President Trump rescinded it in 2017.

I remember employers being concerned about allowing strangers into their facilities for OSHA inspections.

An OSHA inspection can get into the nitty gritty of an operation. It oftentimes exposes a company’s trade secrets. It’s research and development. It’s confidential, competitive advantages.

When a union or “community member” tags along for an OSHA inspection of a manufacturer, that person could see and learn:

* What machines the company has
* Proprietary processes for production
* Current work being performed
* Customer list
* And more….

Each industry has its own, unique twist to the trade secrets that could be exposed during a routine OSHA inspection.

OSHA is onsite to inspect the workplace for violations of the OSH Act.

The inspector is qualified to complete that mission without the assistance of someone from the Local Union that has no affiliation with the employer, no OSHA training, no industry knowledge, and does not even represent the employees.

And opening the door to any “community member” to shadow the inspector is riddled with opportunities for corruption.

Allowing unions and “community members” a backdoor, all access pass into a company’s private property in no way helps the inspector determine if there is a violation of the OSH Act.


Matt Austin is a nationwide management labor lawyer. Labor laws govern virtually all private-sector employees regardless of union membership. Proactive management of labor relations is critical to maintaining flexibility and increasing profit.

Matt also runs Austin Legal’s HR Legal Compliance Program that, for a small monthly fee, ensures HR decisions are protected by the attorney-client privilege.

Matt’s experience is deeply rooted in helping manage many aspects of his clients’ businesses. To effectively manage labor relations, he must also manage budgets, forecasts, new growth areas, and projected market corrections. High emotional intelligence is also critical to negotiating union contracts and to properly advise HR Legal Compliance members through the nuances of the law, its application to their companies, and how it will be received by employees.

You can reach Matt via email at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.