Posted with permission from Confined Space, a newsletter of workplace safety and labor issues.
It’s mid-summer and a man’s fancy turns to what’s happening in OSHA these days. Let’s update you all before you (and I) head out on vacation:
Assistant Secretary: Tomorrow will mark a full 18 months of this administration and still no Assistant Secretary at OSHA. Scott Mugno, who has gone through a Senate confirmation hearing and approved by the committee, seems no closer to final confirmation despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s threat to cancel August Recess to work on confirmations. In addition to Mugno, the Labor Department nominations of Cheryl Stanton (Wage and Hour Division) and William Beach (Bureau of Labor Statistics) are still hanging out there. BNA’s Ben Penn is pessimistic about Mugno’s prospects. McConnell’s decision to keep the kids in from recess might have done the trick if the Senate wasn’t about to dive down the Supreme Court rabbit hole. And then there’s Scott Pruitt’s replacement over at EPA.
This is what Penn is betting: “Don’t count on any more Senate-confirmed DOL agency heads this year at all. If you’re on the side of Mugno, Stanton, and Beach, you’d better hope the Rs maintain a Senate majority come November.” Sounds like a pretty safe bet to me.
We shall see. The betting among the staff at OSHA is that there will be no Assistant Secretary during this term. They doubt that Mugno, who has retired from FedEx and moved down to Florida, really wants the job any more — even if the Senate gets its act together. Why someone wouldn’t want to leave retirement to work in this administration is beyond me. (Actually I meant “would” want to leave retirement.)
Meanwhile a very Happy Anniversary to Deputy Assistant Secretary Loren Sweatt who marks her first full year as Acting Assistant Secretary.
Construction Advisory Committee: BNA’s Bruce Rolfsen reminds us that OSHA’s Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH) is about to lose its last remaining members as their terms expire. We wrote before about Trump OSHA’s disdain for advice or advisory committees and the planned elimination of two Committee (federal employee safety and health and the whistleblower program). No OSHA advisory committee has met during the 18 months of this administration, except one telephonic ACCSH meeting.
ACCSH’s demise is more problematic than the disappearance of other advisory committees because according to the Construction Safety Act, no OSHA standard involving construction workers can go forward without first “consulting” with ACCSH. And while OSHA is not expected to issue any major new construction standards this administration, there are a few smaller ones that will need attention — first and foremost a few modifications to OSHA’s Cranes and Derrick’s standard, including the Crane Operator Certification section of the standard.
Musical Chairs: A glance at OSHA’s Organization Chart reveals a few changes at the upper levels of the agency. Galen Blanton has taken Rich Mendelson’s place as Acting (career) Deputy Assistant Secretary. Mendelson has gone back to Region III (Philadelphia). Blanton is Region I (Boston) administrator and his Deputy, Jeff Erskine, is currently acting in that position. Eric Harbin, currently Region X (Seattle) Regional Administrator, has been detailed down to Dallas to be Acting Administrator in Region VI ( where he was once the Deputy.) No official word on what has become of Region VI Administrator Kelly Knighton. Region IX Administrator Barbara Goto will be running Region X as well as her regular Region IX job. Meanwhile, there are still vacancies in the Region VIII Administrator and the Director of the OSHA Training Center. And, finally, we hear the Tom Galassi, Director of Enforcement Programs, plans to retire this summer. His wisdom and experience will be missed.
OSHA Budget: Not a whole lot new here. Intrepid Inside OSHA reporter Rebecca Rainey sat through 13-hour House of Representatives markup of the Labor-HHS appropriations bill last week and reports that the Committee, as expected, voted to decrease OSHA’s budget slightly and to eliminate the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program. No surprise there. The President requested it, and the House voted to eliminate the Harwood program last year as well. The Senate, on the other hand, as we reported previously, will likely vote to preserve the Harwood program (as it did last year) and increase OSHA’s budget.