CalOSHA Lead Nominated by Biden to Head OSHA

Originally published by: Construction DiveApril 14, 2021

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Dive Brief:

  • President Joe Biden announced last week that his nominee for assistant secretary for occupational safety and health for the Department of Labor is Douglas L. Parker, the current head of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).
  • Prior to his position at Cal/OSHA, a position he has held since 2019, Parker held various other roles related to worker safety, including deputy assistant secretary for policy in the DOL's Mine Safety and Health Administration; senior policy advisor and special assistant at the DOL; and executive director of Worksafe, an Oakland, California-based legal services provider. Parker also worked as an attorney for the United Mine Workers of America.
  • In his role at Cal/OSHA, Parker oversaw the development and issuance of an emergency temporary COVID-19 standard for the state. California is one of a handful of states that has its own coronavirus-related standard, and Biden has ordered federal OSHA to evaluate the need for one at a national level.

Dive Insight:

Contractors can look to President Barack Obama's administration for clues as to how a Parker-run OSHA might operate, said attorney Phillip Russell with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, who represents construction industry clients with OSHA citations and other safety issues.

"Under Parker, OSHA will resume the type of priorities and strategies favored by OSHA under the Obama administration," he said. "As with [David] Michaels then, Parker will use enforcement by shaming and issue press releases when citations are issued instead of when they become final. Employers should also expect more inspections, more citations, less negotiating and more litigating."

Critics of former President Barack Obama' s OSHA pointed often to its strongly worded press releases about employer safety violations as unfair attacks. Those press releases continued until former President Donald Trump’s inauguration at which point they fell off dramatically.

Parker will also likely take the $100 million allocated to the agency in the recent stimulus bill and make new hires at all levels in the OSHA organization, Russell added.

Construction industry leaders also reacted to Parker's nomination. Greg Sizemore, Associated Builders and Contractors' vice president of health, safety, environment and workforce development, said the association hopes that OSHA under Parker's direction will be transparent and will engage with the public in pursuit of meaningful input that will help keep the construction workforce safe.

“ABC looks to OSHA to continue to be a collaborative partner for the entire industry, helping us create the conditions for everyone to complete their work without incident and to go home safe and healthy every day," he said.

Brian Turmail. vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives for the Associated General Contractors of America told Construction Dive that the organization "looks forward to continuing the strong, productive and successful relationship we have had with the agency under its new head once he is confirmed.  

"Our industry has shown America how to safely work during the pandemic, and we are eager to share those lessons with other sectors as we build on last year’s accomplishments to create an even safer industry," he said.

In a press release, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health praised Parker's nomination, with co-executive director Jessica Martinez adding that the group is "optimistic that [Parker] will restore faith in an agency tasked with implementing and enforcing safety standards during this critical time for U.S. workers and families."