Federal agencies Leadership

What’s ahead for OSHA?

Worker safety experts discuss possible changes under Biden administration


OSHA leadership

Loren Sweatt has served as OSHA’s acting administrator since July 2017 – the longest tenure for an acting leader in the agency’s history. OSHA has been without a permanent leader since Michaels stepped down in January 2017.

“We’d love to see a head of OSHA so they can get things moving a little more at the federal level,” Parsons said. “Everyone knows we haven’t secured a head of OSHA in the current administration.”

Trump nominated retired FedEx Ground executive Scott Mugno three times for the assistant secretary of labor position, but Mugno was never confirmed. After two years of waiting, Mugno in May 2019 withdrew his name from consideration.

“That was unfortunate,” Foulke said of the Mugno stalemate. “Because of that, the agency has never really had the direction it needs. It impacted them dramatically.”

However, Foulke said he expects the Biden administration to move quickly on appointing an acting administrator before nominating an assistant secretary.

“Then they can go ahead and start,” Foulke said. “They have a political person who can direct the agency and start moving quickly.”

Seeking greater input from occupational advisory committees – such as the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, the Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health, and the Maritime Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health – also could be an early goal for the Biden administration.

No matter what OSHA prioritizes, the experts agreed that change will happen swiftly. “The quickness of the changes from the Biden administration are going to be faster than any other administration,” Foulke said.

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