DoL’s NPRM Clarifies the Participation of Third Parties in Physical Workplace Inspections

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that proposes changes to the existing Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules regarding the presence of employee representatives alongside OSHA Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) whenever conducting workplace inspections.

The proposed regulation clarifies that employees can authorize representatives who may either be employees of the same employer or third parties. In case a non-employee is selected, the OSHA compliance officer will assess whether involving a third party is reasonably required to carry out a comprehensive and effective inspection. Existing regulations cite two instances where third-party representatives, namely industrial hygienists and safety engineers, may be there in inspections. The proposed revision underscores that third-party representatives aren’t limited to these people.

The proposed revision would allow union representatives and interest groups to participate in walkarounds if the inspecting CSHO believes their presence reasonably required. In 2013, OSHA released a letter of interpretation regarding the OSH Act (29 C.F.R. § 1903.8(c)), indicating that union representatives can act as staff representatives. However, this guidance was removed in 2016 due to a legal challenge. A federal judge ruled that the Department of Labor (DOL) had bypassed the proper notice and comment rulemaking procedure by issuing the OSH Act interpretation as mere guidance. When the proposed revision is approved as law, employers will gain the authority to limit access to specific areas of their facilities, especially those containing trade secrets, to non-employees.

The Department of Labor (DOL) emphasized in its NPRM that involving third-party representatives can be deemed as necessary for their possession of skills, knowledge, or expertise that could significantly enhance the insights available to the compliance officer during inspections. The DOL further elaborated that this information may consist of experience with certain risks, workplace circumstances, or language skills that could enhance communications involving OSHA representatives and employees. The DOL underscored the importance of employee representation during physical inspections as a vital component in ensuring that OSHA receives the essential details concerning worksite conditions and risks.

The proposed revision includes 11 words to the present rule (29 C.F.R. § 1903.8(c)), indicated in bold text below.

The individuals authorized by employees as their representatives can either be employed by the same employer or by a third party. If the authorized representatives are not employed by the same employer, they can go with the Compliance Safety and Health Officer during an inspection when the Officer deems there is a valid reason justifying their participation. This participation should be reasonably necessary to assist in a thorough and effective physical inspection of the workplace. Valid justifications may include their pertinent expertise, skills, or experience regarding workplace risks, conditions, or identical workplaces, or their skills in a particular language.

The DOL is going to accept feedback on the NPRM on or before October 30, 2023.

How Can You Report an Organization to OSHA?

You can report an organization to OSHA by telephone, mail, email, fax, goint ot an OSHA office, or using a web report form. Certain channels of communication are more suitable than others for filing a report on important concerns. The following questions should be considered prior to reporting an organization to OSHA:

  • Is the report about a violation of an OSHA rule?
  • Have you proof to substantiate your report?
  • Do you have the necessary information on the company to file a report to OSHA?
  • What is the best suited method of reporting?

Violation Report of an OSHA Rule

When reporting to OSHA an organization that violates a safety and health rule, the issue will be handled faster when you specify the standard(s) that applies. OSHA’s site has a complete listing of Occupational Safety and Health Standards and the ability to lookup the Standards using keywords.

When you’re unsure about which rule is applicable to your report, you can search the site by most reported issues (such as PPE, heat, hazard communication, etc.) or by most reported industry field (i.e., agriculture, healthcare, construction, etc.). Additionally, you can call the OSHA office in your area and inquire if you’ve got a viable complaint.

Proof to Back Up the Report

In case you are filing a report on an organization to OSHA for violating a safety and health rule, you need to have proof to back up your report. Physical proof like pictures and videos are best, and OSHA will likewise allow eyewitness accounts as proof as long as the contact information of the eyewitness are available to corroborate the report.

The exemption to this guidance is when you are filing a report on an organization using the Whistleblower Complaint Form available on OSHA’s online site. OSHA advises not to include the names and contact information of the witnesses on the form as it will be provided to your boss. Eyewitness accounts are asked for when required as the investigation moves along.

The Information You Must Have When Reporting an Organization to OSHA

OSHA uses a priority system for examining places of work; and, should your report be about (for instance) an insufficiency of PPE, it is going to be prioritized when the insufficient PPE signifies an impending threat in the workplace. Consequently, the more information you give, the more data OSHA can use to make a decision for dealing with your report first.

Furthermore, it is necessary you have the information necessary for OSHA to perform an inspection – particularly in an impending threat situation. These consist of the name and place of the company where the threat is present, the name of the individual(s) in charge of safety and health, and all the contact numbers required to get in touch with the person(s).

The Best Suited Reporting Method

The best method for reporting an organization in an impending threat situation is OSHA’s 24-hour telephone hotline, 1-800-321-6742 (OSHA). Other channels of communication can be used for reports, however, the online report form limits the number of characters in specific fields, which makes it hard to report complicated cases.

As a result, OSHA gets a lot of reports associated with OSHA non-compliance through email, mail, and fax. To assist workers in structuring reports using these methods of communication, OSHA has released a “Notice of Alleged Safety or Health Hazards” PDF that can be printed and submitted to OSHA or utilized as a template for reporting an organization to OSHA.


To conclude, each employee has the right to a secure and healthy work environment, and each one has a part to play in protecting this right. Reporting an organization to OSHA is a significant issue and should not be taken lightly. However, it is an essential step in keeping the workers safe and healthy. In taking the step to file a report on likely violations, you are giving to the bigger OSHA mission of making sure each employee will go home safely and healthily when everything’s done.

About the Author

Elizabeth Hernandez
Elizabeth Hernandez is the editor of HIPAA News. Elizabeth is an experienced journalist who has worked in the healthcare sector for several years. Her expertise is not limited to general healthcare reporting but extends to specialized areas of healthcare compliance and HIPAA compliance. Elizabeth's knowledge in these areas has made her a reliable source for information on the complexities of healthcare regulations. Elizabeth's contribution to the field extends to helping readers understand the importance of patient privacy and secure handling of health information. Elizabeth holds a postgraduate degree in journalism. You can follow Elizabeth on twitter at