On October 25, 2021 the US Senate confirmed President Biden’s nominee Doug Parker to be the next Assistant Secretary of Labor and leader of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  Mr. Parker will be the first Senate-confirmed leader for OSHA in over four years, as the Trump Administration never pursued a permanent head of the agency after Dr. David Michaels resigned in January 2017.

Mr. Parker’s career has been devoted to worker advocacy and democratic political causes, including a brief stint at the Democratic National Committee. Most recently, Mr. Parker has been the chief of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal-OSHA) since September 2019, and before served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy at the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) during the Obama Administration. Mr. Parker’s private sector legal experience includes time as a staff attorney for the United Mine Workers of America.

The Senate’s confirmation vote was essentially on party lines, 50-41 in favor, with the ‘no’ votes coming from Republican Senators concerned with California’s existing emergency temporary standard (ETS) for COVID-19, and what the California standard portends for an ETS that would be implemented at the federal level.

In June, OSHA published a COVID-related ETS that applies to the healthcare sector and submitted a draft of a COVID-related ETS that would apply to general industry earlier this month. The draft is going through a mandatory review by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) before the final version will be published in the Federal Register.

The expectation is that the draft ETS will apply to private-sector and public-sector employers (state and municipal governments) with at least 100 workers to ensure full vaccination or weekly negative testing of their workforce. It is unclear at the moment precisely how the draft ETS would supersede or incorporate the existing requirements of the healthcare ETS (scheduled to sunset in December) and the vaccine mandates for federal employees and federal contractors, which go into effect on November 22 and December 8, 2021 respectively.

Please contact your Husch Blackwell safety and health representative if you wish to discuss how the agency’s leadership may affect your compliance efforts.