US: UNIONS TO ACCOMPANY INSPECTORS

A new walkaround regulation aims to bring OSHA and workers' rights into the 21st century by allowing non-employee representatives, such as union organisers to accompany OSHA inspectors during workplace safety inspections.

Previously, only workers in union shops were allowed to exercise their legal right to choose walkaround representatives, as long as those representatives were employees of the employer, with a few rare exceptions allowing outside industrial hygienists and safety professionals to act as union walkaround representatives.

The change has sparked hysteria among business groups and anti-labour law firms, who invoke the spectre of mass unionisation with OSHA acting as ‘the vanguard of the revolutionary orgy of organising, enabling the union bosses to take over (and destroy) the American economy.’

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 gave workers several rights, including the right to file a complaint, call for an inspection, and accompany the OSHA inspector during the inspection. The evolution of worker representation rights since then has seen a shift away from union-dominated workplaces.

The opposition from business associations focuses on the perceived threat of unions rather than the broader aim of empowering workers to ensure their safety. Claims that the regulation will lead to chaos and trespassing are, of course, nonsense. The regulation's intent is to give workers a voice in safety matters.

Source: Confined Space, 20 April

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