Doug Parker, the Biden Administration’s pick to head OSHA, has received confirmation by Congress to assume the role of Assistant Secretary of the Department of Labor in charge of the agency.
Parker, who was most recently employed as the head of Cal/OSHA, was granted the position Oct. 25 with a 50-41 vote.
Before his stint with Cal/OSHA, Parker was the former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy at MSHA under the Obama Administration and the executive director of Worksafe, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting workers.
Safety experts’ weigh in
He was a driving force behind California’s COVID-19 regulations, and safety experts were happy with his April 21 nomination.
At the time of his nomination, Debbie Berkowitz, an adviser at OSHA under the Obama administration pointed out to Politico that Cal/OSHA conducted “almost as much enforcement in one state in 2020 as the federal OSHA did altogether.”
The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) issued a news release Oct. 26 showing its approval of Parker’s confirmation.
“This leadership role was unoccupied for too long, and the position is more important than ever given the workplace safety challenges created by the pandemic and the continuing evolution of how work is performed,” ASSP President Brad Giles said.
The organization feels Parker is a “strong proponent of protecting workers and believe his public policy experience will help OSHA.”
Following Parker’s confirmation, the National Safety Council expressed that it was pleased with the news and looked forward to working with Parker on increasing COVID-19 vaccine uptake among workers, reversing the upward trend of workplace fatalities and increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace safety field.
What to expect from Parker’s OSHA
At a confirmation hearing in May, Parker said that as OSHA’s chief, he’d continue doing what he did in his other government roles, which was maintaining a dialog with stakeholders, according to Government Executive.
Parker said there was no reason “to choose between a strong economy and good, safe jobs” when listening to and learning from stakeholders can ensure both.
He also defended California’s decision to issue a COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS) ahead of federal OSHA’s.
“I don’t regret what we did … because I believe it saved lives in California and did contribute to the improvement in the situation from being one of the hardest hit states to the state now with one of the lowest rates,” Parker said. “But it wasn’t where we began. We began with offering compliance assistance to employers, understanding that they needed assistance in figuring out how to address COVID-19.”
Law firm Jackson Lewis told Government Executive that Parker’s confirmation as the head of OSHA would signal “significant regulatory and enforcement changes” at the agency.