Hunton Employment & Labor Law Perspectives
Michaels Confirmed As New Head Of OSHA
Dr. David Michaels was confirmed and sworn in on December 9 as Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA. Before coming to OSHA, Dr. Michaels was a professor and interim chair at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services' Department of Environmental and Occupational Health.
Dr. Michaels is the author of a book entitled, Doubt Is Their Product: How Industry's Assault on Science Threatens Your Health (Oxford University Press, 2008), and a number of articles in Science, the Journal of the American Medical Association, Scientific American, and other scientific publications. From 1998-2001, Dr. Michaels served as Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environment, Safety and Health in the Department of Energy, where he was responsible for protecting the health of workers, communities and the environment around the nation's nuclear energy facilities and some nuclear weapons facilities.
At this time, it is too early to predict with certainty what will be Dr. Michaels’ primary initiatives. However, based on his writings and speeches, he is known to be a proponent of additional regulation in this area. In early 2009, for example, Dr. Michaels wrote an article entitled, Bold Campaign Needed To Change Workplace Culture, New York Committee of Occupational Safety and Health SafetyRep Newsletter (Winter 2009). In that article, he listed several areas covered by OSHA that need improvement: safety and health programs, training, additional regulation in numerous unspecified areas, and electronic recordkeeping. Dr. Michaels also has been an outspoken critic of current gun laws; many speculate that, with his hand on the helm, the agency will become involved more directly in gun control issues. Finally, he also has urged that employer safety records should be more comprehensive and easier to access by the public.