The top job at MSHA has been vacant since November, former OSHA Administrator John Henshaw left the agency in December, and there are now two empty positions at CSB.
In a letter to President Bush, ASSE President Jack Dobson wrote, "ASSE is deeply concerned that, since the beginning of your second term of office, leadership positions in each of these key agencies remain unfilled when numerous highly qualified individuals…are eager to fill those positions."
Dobson called on the president to move on the nominations in time for Congress to consider them when it returns from its August recess.
"The president remains committed to finding the most qualified individuals for these positions," said Maria Tamburri, a spokesperson for the White House. "When we have an announcement to make, we will go ahead and do so."
In a statement released to Occupationalhazards.com, AIHA added its voice to the pressure on the White House:
"AIHA thanks ASSE for raising this important issue. We too urge the president to move forward with these critical nominations as soon as possible. While the staff at OSHA, MSHA and CSB are dedicated to fulfilling their agencies' missions, their important work is only made more difficult by the lack of permanent appointees in leadership positions."
Both AIHA and ASSE called on the president to fill the positions with health and safety professionals. Henshaw, a former president of AIHA, is a certified industrial hygienist. The current acting OSHA administrator, Jonathan Snare, is a lawyer who worked in private practice in Texas until June 2003, when he joined the Department of Labor to serve as senior advisor to the solicitor of labor.
Although not mentioned by ASSE and AIHA, several lawyers with OSHA practices complained that legal decisions by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) are slower now because of an unfilled position at that agency. The commission currently has only two members, and according to one lawyer who spoke on the condition of anonymity, "this increases stalemates and delays the issuance of decisions."
In an interview, Chris Tampio, director of employment policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, also called on the administration to move on filling the various empty positions.
"We want to have people in these positions, so they can make good policy decisions," said Tampio. "One of the problems might be the positions are getting too political, so whoever gets nominated gets beaten up." Tampio hoped the president would name a person to lead OSHA who, like Henshaw, had business and manufacturing experience.
In his letter, Dobson worried that for the next leaders of OSHA and MSHA to be effective, time may already be running out.
"With eight months of your second term already past, every day that these positions remain unfilled makes it increasingly difficult for someone to provide meaningful leadership in the limited time left until the end of your term in office."