President Barack Obama nominated Michaels, an epidemiologist and research professor at the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, to head OSHA on July 28. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved Michaels’ nomination on Nov. 18, and the nomination was then turned to the full Senate.
Michaels has conducted numerous studies on the health effects of occupational exposure to toxic chemicals. He also previously served as assistant secretary of energy for Environment, Safety and Health and contributed to the public health and occupational safety blog The Pump Handle.
Jordan Barab, who has served as the acting OSHA administrator since April 13, will continue his duties as OSHA’s deputy assistant secretary.
Following the Senate HELP Committee’s Nov. 18 approval of Michaels’ nomination, The American Public Health Association (APA) praised Michaels and urged the full Senate to confirm him quickly.
“Dr. Michaels is eminently qualified to lead OSHA,” said APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, M.D., FACP, FACEP (E). “He has proven his skill at protecting workers in a regulatory setting and has earned the respect of the scientific community for his commitment to science as the backbone of sound public health and environmental regulation.”
“OSHA’s job is to protect America’s workers,” continued Benjamin. “The agency is charged with establishing and enforcing the protective rules needed to safeguard working people against hazardous conditions and harmful exposures, including toxic chemical and infectious agents. Unfortunately, OSHA is badly under-resourced and years of foot-dragging have resulted in outdated standards. The agency needs strong leadership to address these shortcomings, and Dr. Michaels is well positioned to deliver for U.S. workers.”
Michaels’ confirmation gives OSHA its first permanent administrator since Edwin Foulke Jr. resigned in November 2008.