On April 9, 2021, the White House issued a press release announcing its nomination of Douglas Parker (Parker) for the position of Assistant Secretary for the Occupational and Health Administration (OSHA). Parker is currently the chief of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) and has held the position since 2019. Prior to 2019, he was a member of the Biden-Harris transition team, focusing on worker health and safety issues, and during the Obama administration was a deputy assistant secretary for policy at the Mine Safety and Health Administration, Department of Labor.
Cal/OSHA is one of five states that have published a COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS) which we’ve previously discussed here. Parker though, is not the only California Department of Labor official nominated by the Biden administration to a leadership position at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Julie Su, California’s Secretary of Labor has been nominated by the Biden administration to serve as the deputy U.S. Labor Secretary, the number two spot at the DOL. If confirmed, the presence of both Su and Parker give credence to speculation that if OSHA promulgates one or more ETS related to COVID-19, the standard(s) would incorporate provisions and perhaps lessons learned from the adoption and implementation of the California ETS.
Secretary of Labor Walsh recently reaffirmed that the DOL is rapidly reviewing the need for an ETS based on CDC analysis and the latest information regarding the state of vaccinations and variants to the COVID-19 virus. The CDC currently uses three tiers to classify COVID-19 variants: variants of high consequence; variants of concern; and variants of interest. At present, the CDC has not classified any of the known variants as a variant of high consequence. Nevertheless, the presence of variants of concern and the potential for variants of high consequence are likely to affect DOL’s decision, as will the efficacy of vaccinating the U.S. population to prevent the variants from gaining a foothold in the U.S.
The Husch Blackwell Safety Law team will continue to monitor the DOL decisions regarding the implementation of a federal ETS and issuance of additional guidelines.
If you have questions regarding current obligations under OSHA guidelines and state law, contact Donna Pryor, Erik Dullea or your Husch Blackwell attorney
Tracey O’Brien, Legal Content and Knowledge Manager, is a co-author of this content.