OSHA On Hold

Sources in touch with the Bush Administration's effort to fill\r\nsub-cabinet posts at the Department of Labor say it could be weeks or even months before a new OSHA administrator is named.

Sources in touch with the Bush Administration''s effort to fill sub-cabinet posts at the Department of Labor (DOL) are saying it could be weeks or even months before a new OSHA administrator is named.

Among the reasons for the delay:

  • The administration was burned by moving too fast on its first choice to head DOL, Linda Chavez. No one wants to make the same mistake twice, and FBI background checks take time;
  • sub-cabinet positions take more time than cabinet posts because they usually involve negotiations between the president and the department head; and
  • the Florida recount cost the administration time.

When Bush took office, Jan. 20, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card fired off a memorandum to all departments and agencies directing them not to send any more final regulations to the Federal Register until they are reviewed by a Bush appointee.

To buy some time for reviewing the many rules issued in the final days of the Clinton presidency, the memorandum slapped a 60-day delay on all published rules that have not yet taken effect.

OSHA declined to comment on how, or whether, the memorandum applied to the three standards OSHA published just before Bush took office: the rules on steel erection, needlesticks, and recordkeeping.

The memorandum does not apply to ergonomics, because it took effect just before Bush took office.

In many other ways OSHA appears to be battening down the hatches while it awaits guidance from the higher-ups.

Acting Administrator, Layne Davis, is not speaking to the press, and there have been reports in recent weeks that OSHA''s field staff is not answering compliance assistance questions about the ergonomics standard.

OSHA spokespersons are not even saying where Charles Jeffress is, or what he was up to.

by James Nash

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