What may an employer do to protect trade secrets during an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspection?

Authors: John D. Surma and Collin G. Warren, Adams and Reese LLP

During the OSHA inspection, the employer should identify, notify and mark all documents that contain trade secrets. Under Section 15 of the OSH Act, all information reported to or obtained by OSHA that contains trade secrets is required to be kept confidential by OSHA. This information is not to be disclosed except to other OSHA officials concerned with the enforcement of the OSH Act. Additionally, federal law provides for criminal penalties for federal employees who disclose such information. If an employer objects to an OSHA compliance officer taking pictures or video because of a concern about trade secret protection, the officer will explain the protection afforded by the law to the employer. If the employer still objects, the officer will contact the Area Director.