OSHA "Walkaround" Rule Threatens Small Businesses

Date: September 14, 2016 Last Edit: September 15, 2016

NFIB Argues New Regulation Creates Unfair Union Advantage


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a “walkaround” rule that enables a union representative to accompany OSHA inspectors during work site investigations, even if the businesses are non-unionized. This poses a threat to small businesses, the NFIB argues. Bloomberg BNA reports that the group filed a complaint last week in US District Court for the Northern District of Texas due to “concerns that the walkaround rights will facilitate union organizing.” According to attorney Damien Schiff, who is representing small businesses in the suit, the rule “becomes just another tool for unions in their organizing campaigns to effectively proselytize employees as to why they should organize, and why they should use that particular union.” In addition to the suit, the Pacific Legal Foundation “has submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to OSHA to determine how many times unions have acted as employee representatives on walkarounds but was told the agency doesn’t keep those records,” meaning there is a disconcerting lack of accountability when it comes to OSHA.

What Happens Next

Bloomberg BNA noted that OSHA will have 60 days to respond to the NFIB suit once it is served. In the meantime, all current OSHA regulations remain in effect.

What This Means For Small Businesses

Small business owners have enough regulatory difficulties in dealing with OSHA compliance. They shouldn’t have to worry about union representatives unfairly discussing labor issues with their employees as well. OSHA’s “walkaround” rule puts small businesses at a regulatory disadvantage. CNS News reports that as NFIB Small Business Legal Center Executive Director Karen Harned explained, “The walk-around rule has nothing to do with worker safety and everything to do with intimidating independent business owners. This is purely and simply a bully tactic on the part of the government for the benefit of unions.”

Additional Reading

Courthouse News also covered the NFIB’s suit against the OSHA “walk around” rule.

Note: this article is intended to keep small business owners up on the latest news. It does not necessarily represent the policy stances of NFIB.

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