Washington returned after New Year’s to news on several Trump administration nominations related to workplace safety and health.

New Commission Chair nominated

This week, the White House announced the nomination of Marco M. Rajkovich, Jr. to be the new Chairman of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. Rajkovich has been an attorney in private practice, representing mine operators on MSHA-related issues, for more than 30 years.

According to the White House, he is also a professional mining engineer, land surveyor, and certified “Kentucky underground mine foreman.” Before working as a lawyer, he spent 10 years at the U.S. Steel Mining Company, Inc. in engineering and production. He has a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Kentucky, a J.D. from the University of Kentucky, and an M.A. in pastoral theology in 2016 from Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology.

If confirmed, he would serve the remainder of a 6-year term that expires in 2022. The nomination is significant because it would restore a fifth member to the judicial panel. The Commission hears appeals of legal cases brought under the Mine Act and sets precedent in interpreting the Act and MSHA regulations.

New Solicitor confirmed

Just before the holidays, Congress approved the nomination of Kate O’Scannlain as the next Solicitor of Labor. O’Scannlain has most recently been in private legal practice as an employment litigation attorney for 12 years. In her new role as the Department of Labor’s lead attorney, she will oversee some 500 lawyers around the country. She received her B.A. cum laude from the University of Notre Dame and her law degree from Notre Dame Law School.

OSHA chief deferred

Finally, before its recess, the Senate did not take up a vote on the nomination of Scott Mugno to be the next leader of OSHA. As a result, Mr. Mugno’s nomination expired and had to be re-submitted by the White House. It now heads back to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions for a scheduled committee vote on January 11th. After that, the full Senate can vote on confirmation.

(The Assistant Secretary of Labor who leads MSHA, David Zatezalo, was confirmed in December and has been on the job for approximately 30 days.)

The future?

With leadership still arriving and settling in, there remains uncertainty about the direction of these top two federal safety agencies in the years ahead. Many expect that enforcement will shift from a predominantly heavy enforcement mode to more cooperative efforts that partner government, workers, and industry.

It is also unclear how aggressive the agencies will be in either setting new safety and health standards or, on the other hand, revising and reforming existing standards. Under instructions issued by the White House last year, federal agencies have been asked to identify regulations that should be reformed or withdrawn. In addition, the Presidential Executive Order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs requires agencies to remove two old regulations for every new one they propose.