On April 9th President Biden issued his nomination for Douglas L. Parker to helm the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Mr. Parker is the current chief of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA). As the chief of Cal/OSHA, which he has held since September 2019, Mr. Parker directed and oversaw the agency’s policies in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. One of those policies is the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). The ETS enforces new requirements on California’s employers that are steered in protecting workers from COVID-19 in the workplace. Requirements in the ETS included having certain businesses provide employer-funded testing in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
Many have cited Cal/OSHA’s policies regarding COVID-19 workplace safety as the most robust in the nation. Moreover, the ETS is just one of Cal/OSHA’s policies that demonstrates the state agency’s strict enforcement of workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cal/OSHA has also conducted enforcement inspections on essential businesses to confirm their compliance with the new requirements. These inspections Cal/OSHA have managed resulted in citations and penalties that, in some cases, have brought upon fines exceeding $100,000.
Thus, most experts are expecting an OSHA that is both aggressive and strict with their enforcement initiative if Mr. Parker gets confirmed as the Assistant Secretary for OSHA.
Scott Gaddis, Vice President of Health and Safety Intelex, comments that “Over the last year, Mr. Parker led an aggressive California program with as much enforcement activity in 2020 as federal OSHA did in total. He also led an aggressive control plan for COVID-19, so I expect he will continue his work at the federal level to publish and enforce a federal COVID-19 Emergency Action Plan.”
Moreover, if confirmed, Mr. Parker would be the first Senate confirmed federal OSHA chief since January 2017. The federal agency itself has not seen its chief be a safety professional since George W. Bush’s first term when John Henshaw was leading the agency.
Previous to being the chief at Cal/OSHA, Mr. Parker has also worked under the Obama administration as a deputy assistant secretary for policy with the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Past experience also had Mr. Parker working as the executive director of WorkSafe and as an attorney for the United Mine Workers of America.
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