The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) remains Administrator-less seven months into President Trump’s administration with the recent retirement of the former acting assistant secretary, Dorothy Dougherty, and the absence of a nomination from the White House. Despite the power vacuum, OSHA has been forced to remain active on regulations and standards teed up by the outgoing administration and targeted for revision or rescission by opponents of the prior administration’s actions. These actions include changing the scope of the beryllium standard, delaying the effective date of the injury and illness rule, and signing off on a Congressional vote overturning the Volks rule (which would have rendered meaningless the statute of limitations for recordkeeping violations).
While we are not surprised that even a rudderless OSHA is managing to tick off a few of the Trump Administration’s key agenda items, what about the rest of the stuff OSHA does? What do the majority of the 2000+ OSHA employees do under a new President and after seven months without a boss? According to Mark Konkel (our labor law expert in NY and all around good dude), most OSHA employees are probably still working on what they have always been working on. “ . . .day to day, a giant administrative bureaucracy with thousands of employee is running—meaning that policy momentum will guide what they do in the absence of new top-down direction under the Trump administration.” He also notes that “this may have the effect of extending Obama-era policy direction, because there’s nothing new to interrupt the old direction.” Mark is as wise as he is handsome – and that’s why we hate him…
So what is with the delay in naming a new OSHA Administrator? Maybe nothing. President Barack Obama did not appoint an OSHA Administrator (Dr. David Michaels) until late July of his first term and President George W. Bush waited mid-September of his first term to appoint Edwin Foulke. Given the general slow pace of nominations on other agencies and the fact that President Trump was compelled to “do over” his nomination for Secretary of Labor, we wouldn’t be too surprised to see this nomination delayed well into the fall.
Guesses on who it will be? Our NSFW rumor mills have heard mention of Tom Galassi (head of the agency’s enforcement directorate), Scott Mugno (vice president of safety, sustainability and vehicle maintenance at FedEx Ground), and James Thornton (safety director at shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries in Norfolk, VA).