President Joe Biden has tapped three seasoned experts to jumpstart the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal government's main worker health and safety agency. Jim Frederick will serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary of OSHA and will head the agency until a permanent Assistant Secretary is confirmed. Frederick’s experience includes over two decades working for the United Steel Workers' health, safety, and environment department. In his latest role, Frederick served as the assistant director and principal investigator for the department. Biden has also named Chip Hughes, former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Worker Education and Training Program, as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Pandemic and Emergency Response. This will be a crucial role in the weeks and months ahead. Ann Rosenthal will join the team as Senior Advisor. Rosenthal served as the Associate Solicitor for Occupational Safety and Health at the Department of Labor until 2017 and has decades of legal experience protecting worker health and safety.
Throughout his tenure, former President Donald Trump repeatedly claimed to be looking out for America's workers. He exposed that lie many times over: He never appointed a permanent OSHA administrator, and he nominated regulatory ideologues to key positions at the U.S. Department of Labor. Meanwhile, he and his administrative appointees attacked and weakened a number of worker health and safety protections.
These direct attacks represent only some of the harm Trump did to America's workers. OSHA often takes years to issue new health and safety protections, but Trump’s team slowed progress further — even during a pandemic. Since last March, the agency has steadfastly refused to issue either an emergency or a permanent standard to protect workers from the coronavirus and other infectious diseases.
The Biden-Harris administration and OSHA’s leadership team must do better than the Trump administration. They must transform the agency into a proactive one that truly looks out for the health and safety of all workers.
Here are five actions they can take right away, with the first being the most essential:
Our main worker health and safety agency cannot be dormant, and these are just five of many actions OSHA must take during the Biden administration. COVID-19 and a host of other workplace hazards confront our nation's workers every day; if OSHA doesn’t have their backs, they can’t to do much to improve working conditions. Frederick, Hughes, Rosenthal, and the future head of OSHA have a perfect opportunity to guide the agency into a new era, one where hardworking individuals have the health and safety protections they deserve.
Editor’s note: This post is part of the Center for Progressive Reform’s Policy for a Just America initiative. Learn more on CPR’s website.