Search for OSHA Chief Appears Stalled

Industry experts explain why they believe there has been a delay in naming a new OSHA administrator.

"It just seems like there''s too much silence out there. Something''s weird." So said Deron Zeppelin, director of governmental affairs of the Society for Human Resources about filling the empty post of OSHA administrator.

Zeppelin has been involved in discussions with the Bush Administration about a number of empty high government positions. He thought it possible that the nominee has already been chosen and is now going through background checks.

Aaron Trippler, director of government affairs for the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), has a couple of theories of his own about why there appears to be so much inactivity in the effort to fill the top job at OSHA.

One reason is that OSHA may not be high on Labor Secretary Chao''s priority list. Trippler said Chao has not previously been a strong proponent of OSHA-type issues.

A second cause of delay, he believes, is the political scene in Washington, D.C.

"They have not minded delaying this because of the ergonomics situation," said Trippler. According to this line of reasoning, it is wiser not to fill the OSHA slot until Congress decides whether to nullify the ergonomics standard.

"I would not want to walk into the OSHA job being bombarded by labor and Congress," said Trippler. "You''d rather walk in there having no say."

Having no say is something his association knows something about, as AIHA decided not to take a position on the effort to nullify the OSHA ergonomics standard -- although the association did support an ergonomics standard.

AIHA has decided to speak out on who should be the next OSHA administrator.

One of the names often mentioned in Washington, D.C., as a replacement for former OSHA Administrator Charles Jeffress is John Henshaw, environmental, health and safety director of Astaris L.L.C. in St. Louis, Mo. Henshaw asked for, and received, a letter from AIHA backing his effort to be the next OSHA administrator.

Trippler said no one else has asked for AIHA''s support, and that in their letter the association argued that whoever gets the job ought to have a solid background in occupational health and safety.

As for Henshaw, he said that although he has officially applied for the position, he has not yet had any official contact with the administration on the matter. For qualifications, Henshaw cited his 26 years of experience in the field and his profound interest in OSHA.

"I''m deeply concerned about OSHA and its effectiveness," Henshaw said. "My objectives would be to make it more effective, more efficient, and more credible."

by James Nash

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