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OSHA Acting Chief: States Must Manage Money Better

Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jonathan Snare said he is trying to clamp down on OSHA state plan states that don't spend all the money given to them by the federal government, because "this money is wasted, essentially" and must be returned to Washington unspent.

In an exclusive interview with Occupational Hazards, Snare also:

  • Declined to comment on speculation that he is a candidate for the permanent top job at OSHA;
  • Explained how his background has prepared him to lead the agency;
  • Asserted that OSHA would continue its past policy of reducing workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities through a "balanced approach" of enforcement and voluntary programs; and
  • Argued the agency should be evaluated on more than its ability to reduce workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities.

"A number of states have not done the most effective job of using their resources," Snare said. "We've created a policy mechanism by which there are going to be consequences if the states don't get their own house in order."

States with their own OSHA programs receive some money from the federal government to help fund their programs. In order to stop the unspent money problem, OSHA has sent a schedule to these states with targets they will have to meet.

Not spending the money allocated to them "is not good for them and it's not good for us," Snare asserted.

Snare's predecessor, OSHA Administrator John Henshaw, believed the agency should be judged by its ability to affect the "triple bottom line" of occupational injuries, illnesses and fatalities. The current acting head of OSHA agreed this is "the single most important factor." But, he argued, "The agency can also be judged by how well we use our resources to achieve that important mission."

A former private sector attorney, Snare lacks a professional safety and health background, but he said he developed proven leadership skills during his legal career. He explained that as head of OSHA, he must set the priorities of the agency, assimilate complex information, analyze issues and make decisions.

"Over the course of my career as a commercial litigator in government affairs, environmental law, labor and employment, I've had to do that -- analyze complex issues on a difficult basis, lead a variety of groups and be an advocate. All those skills enable me to exercise the role I have as assistant secretary."

Asked if he was a candidate to be the permanent assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, Snare declined to answer directly.

"I serve at the pleasure of the Secretary of Labor," he replied. "However long that can be, however long that may be."

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