Industry Attorney's Perspective on Trump's Nomination of Scott Mugno for Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA

Nov. 2, 2017
After months of rumors and speculation, on Oct. 30, the White House finally announced its choice for the role of assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. I am personally very pleased that nomination was Scott A. Mugno.

Scott A. Mugno presently serves as the vice president of Safety, Vehicle Maintenance and Sustainability for FedEx Ground.  In that position, he has been in charge of the safety and health mission for an organization with nearly 90,000 workers, across more than 588 workplaces and a fleet of more than 58,000 trailers. 

He has an impeccable reputation in the safety space as a great leader, a tremendous motivator for safety, a faithful believer in the safety mission and a true safety professional. For the past six years, Scott has successfully curated FedEx Ground’s core principle of “Safety Above All,” which means that:

“No package [FedEx] could ever carry is worth jeopardizing the safety of one employee.”

The White House touted Scott’s qualifications for the position of OSHA’s chief administrator in a press release announcing his nomination:

“His responsibilities in both [of his safety leadership positions at FedEx] included developing, promoting and facilitating the safety and health program and culture. Mr. Mugno was twice awarded FedEx’s highest honor, the FedEx Five Star Award, for his safety leadership….”

Scott has been a friend and professional associate for many years, and I believe his diverse background puts him in a unique position to be a dynamic and successful leader at OSHA. In his current job, Scott is a corporate safety director.  Previous to his FedEx Ground position, Scott was the corporate safety director at FedEx Express in Memphis. Prior to that, he had been a practicing regulatory attorney for both private employers and law firms. Before that, he spent six years serving our nation as an attorney in the Army JAG corps. The combination of all of these past experiences puts Scott in a unique position to successfully execute OSHA’s safety mission.

OSHA’s chief administrator [often] has come from the ranks of other government roles, academia or private law firms. In OSHA’s history, the agency [has not always] been led by someone who has served as a corporate safety director. Moving into the regulator’s seat with a real understanding of the practical side and challenges of managing a safety program, managing employees’ participation in safety and managing the business side of safety, only can improve OSHA’s relationship with the regulated community and its ability to effectively carry out its safety mission. Combine all of these experiences, and you have a truly unique outlook on and appreciation for safety from several valuable perspectives.

As a former practicing attorney, both in-house for employers with challenging safety environments and with outside law firms, Scott understands the regulatory environment he is walking into. He understands the rulemaking process and the challenges that OSHA faces, the interaction between Congress, OSHA and the White House. He understands the nuances of the OSHA regulatory framework, and the challenges and opportunities employers face in operating a business within that framework. 

That undoubtedly will help him as an OSHA administrator focus on solutions and agenda items that fit within the law, rather than chasing initiatives, advancing interpretations and pushing enforcement policies that are destined to be struck down by the OSH Review Commission or federal courts. I expect Scott will find ways to utilize all the tools in OSHA’s tool belt, not just the enforcement stick, to drive the agency’s safety mission. 

To be clear, I hardly can envision Scott as an industry stooge. He will not go out of his way to make life easier for employers at the expense of worker safety. I expect that he will utilize effective compliance assistance and promote worthwhile cooperative programs, and still will advance an enforcement agenda, but one that is fair and smart.

Finally, as a former Army JAG lawyer, Scott understands the great value in public service. Without a doubt, that sense of duty and commitment to serving the nation is what motivated him to accept this nomination as assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. 

He has conveyed to me the awesome responsibility he feels as the safety director responsible for thousands of workers at FedEx, and I am confident he will feel that same responsibility for all of America’s workers, and that America’s workforce will be extremely well served should Scott Mugno be fortunate enough to be confirmed in this role.

About the author: Eric J. Conn is a founding partner of Conn Maciel Carey and chair of the firm’s national OSHA • Workplace Safety Practice Group. His practice focuses exclusively on issues involving occupational safety and health law.

(Editor’s Note: This blog originally appeared in The OSHA Defense Report blog of law firm Conn Maciel Carey and is reprinted with permission from the author.)

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