Nearly five months after Inauguration Day, the White House has announced its choice as Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA.
The nominee is John L. Henshaw, director of environment, safety, and health for Astaris LLC, a St. Louis-based joint venture between two chemical companies: Solutia and FMC Corp.
Astaris manufactures and markets phosphorus and related products for consumer and industrial use.
Henshaw, a past president of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), has wide support among business, labor, and professional associations. It is likely he will need all the good will he can find, as the new head of OSHA will soon be marching right into the highly politicized debate about whether there should be a new ergonomics standard.
The Labor Department will be holding hearings in July on how to address ergonomics, though it is far from certain whether Henshaw will be confirmed by the Senate before then.
"We wanted someone who is a safety and health professional," said Michael Wright, director of health, safety and the environment for the United Steelworkers of America. The steelworkers union represents workers at Monsanto, where Henshaw was corporate director of quality and compliance assurance in the mid-1990s.
Wright praised Henshaw''s past commitment to worker safety and health, but cautioned that the real test for an OSHA administrator is not the past, but the future.
"He created good safety and health programs at Monsanto, " he said. "Now that he''s at OSHA we hope he will support a safety and health program standard."
AIHA lost little time endorsing the Henshaw nomination, and alluded to one of the critical strengths Henshaw appears to have: his ability to build bridges between stakeholder groups who are often at loggerheads.
"AIHA believes that the way to progress in health and safety is through partnerships -- with business, labor, government, academia, and the professions," said AIHA President Henry Lick yesterday. "John Henshaw possesses the critical skills to foster these actions."
Jenny Krese, director of employment policy at the National Association of Manufacturers appeared to agree. "It''s very encouraging to us to know that he seems to have widespread support from business, labor, and professional groups," she said. "We look forward to working with him to make OSHA a more customer-friendly agency."
The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) also applauded the nomination. "As the head of OSHA one has the major responsibility of overseeing the nation''s workplace safety," said ASSE President Samuel Gualardo, "and Mr. Henshaw is a person who is well equipped to handle this pivotal position and is committed to promoting initiatives aimed at enhancing occupational safety and health."
by James Nash