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Senate Confirms New Head of OSHA

Oct. 27, 2021
Doug Parker, the former head of Cal/OSHA, has been tapped as the next assistant secretary of labor at the U.S. Department of Labor.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Doug Parker to lead the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 

Parker will serve as the 13th assistant secretary of labor, and he will take over for acting OSHA administrator Jim Frederick.

The early evening vote on Oct. 25 was 50-41 along mostly party lines. Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Rob Portman (Ohio) voted for Parker, and no Democrats voted against him.

Parker is the first confirmed head of OSHA in nearly five years—the longest period in OSHA’s history without a Senate-confirmed leader or assistant secretary of labor. Former President Donald Trump nominated Scott Mugno to head OSHA in October 2017, but Mugno withdrew in May 2019 after waiting nearly 20 months for Senate Confirmation.

Since 2019, Parker has served as the head of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA). He previously served as n deputy assistant secretary for policy for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration during the Obama administration. He was also executive director of Worksafe: Safety, Health, & Justice for Workers, a legal services provider in Oakland, Calif.; partner at the law firm Mooney, Green, Baker and Saindon, PC; and worked as a staff attorney for the United Mine Workers of America.

Parker was part of President Joe Biden’s transition team for worker health and safety issues. Biden announced his intent to nominate Parker on April 9. Parker testified before the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on June 16, which voted 13-9 to advance his nomination to the full Senate.

After the vote, safety leaders, associations and politicians began issuing their statements, including the following:

David Michaels, OSHA’s most recent Senate-confirmed leader who resigned in January 2017, tweeted: “Assuming Doug Parker is confirmed tonight and sworn in tomorrow as Assistant Secretary of Labor for #OSHA, that post will finally be filled—1,747 days after I stepped down. Congratulations to Doug and to OSHA!”

American Society of Safety Professionals President Brad Giles, P.E., CSP, STS, FASSP, GIOSH said in a statement that the appointment was long overdue.

“This leadership role was unoccupied for too long, and the position is more important than ever given the workplace safety challenges created by the pandemic and the continuing evolution of how work is performed,” Giles said. “We recognize that Doug is a strong proponent of protecting workers and believe his public policy experience will help OSHA. We look forward to working with Doug and his staff on many occupational safety and health issues. It’s vital to understand the risks people confront every day on the job and to recognize that these risks often have life-and-death implications. Workplace fatalities are preventable.”

"AIHA looks forward to working with Mr. Parker towards our shared goal of protecting the health and safety of workers throughout the nation,” said AIHA CEO Lawrence D. Sloan.

Lorraine Martin, head of the National Safety Council (NSC) tweeted: “Congrats to Doug Parker for being confirmed as Asst. Sec. of Labor at @OSHA_DOL! @NSCsafety looks forward to working with you as the nation continues to fight the coronavirus pandemic in workplaces and communities.”

The NSC also issued a press release stating that the organization looks forward to working with Parker on increasing vaccine update among workers through employers; reversing the upward trend of workplace fatalities; and increasing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace safety field.

Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO tweeted, “Finally, after 1747 days, @OSHA_DOL has a champion for workers’ rights as its director. A life-long worker safety advocate, Doug Parker will advocate for safe working conditions for all & hold employers who violate workers’ rights accountable.”

Joe Main, administrator of the United Mine Workers of America Safety Department, tweeted, “Congratulations to Doug Parker on his confirmation as OSHA Assistant Secretary. Doug served as Deputy Assistant Secretary at MSHA during my term there, and I saw his talent first-hand. He was a great choice for OSHA.”  

United Association, a union of plumbers, fitters, welders and service technicians, tweeted, “As the head of @OSHA_DOL, Doug will protect worker safety on jobsites everywhere. Doug’s confirmation is another win for all UA members, and we look forward to working with him and @USDOL to keep our members safe.”

U.S. Rep Bobby Scott (D-Va.) tweeted, “Doug Parker is the right choice to lead @OSHA_DOL. With the appointment of this well-qualified safety and health expert, workers will have yet another strong ally in the Biden Administration.”

U.S. Rep Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) tweeted, “After 4 years without a permanent head of @OSHA_DOL under Trump, the Biden administration is serious about protecting the safety & health of all workers. Doug Parker’s experience with the @MineWorkers & @USDOL will make him a great leader & strong advocate for workers.”

About the Author

Nicole Stempak

Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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