OSHA's New Sheriff maybe already be in Town


In 2001, Jordan Barab was a out of work political appointee.  With the election of George Bush, the Republicans swept into power and America saw a significant shift in policies from the Clinton era.  Now fast forward eight years, and Jordan is back in business (although to be fair he really wasn’t out of work for this time, he did quite well for himself as a lobbyist and consultant for the AFL-CIO).

During this time, as he refers to it…"
I turned into a pumpkin at noon, January 20, 2001," he used his spare time to share his insights and thoughts with the world via the world wide web.  When Blogs became in vogue (hence this blog) Jordan wrote extensively on various issues he felt passionate about.  Included in these writings are various insights into the current issues that Congress is now considering.  Included in these were workers rights, injury & illnesses, whistleblower protections, and the expansion of OSHA into the public sector. (http://spewingforth.blogspot.com/2007/01/goodbye-final-curtain-comes-down.html).

Given the fact that Republicans by and large all turned into pumpkins at noon, January 20, 2009, and soon thereafter Jordan was named acting assistant secretary of Labor in charge of OSHA, it should be no surprise that Jordan and like minded people are now aggressively pushing their long held agenda.  Now I am not here to condemn or praise this agenda, but rather to bring to light what government, business and industry may well expect in the coming months and years. 

While attending the ASSE Safety 2009 conference in San Antonio, Texas earlier this week, I had the opportunity to hear both Jordan and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis speak on their agenda going forward.  I do think it is of extreme importance to note that this was the first time a sitting Secretary of Labor addressed the members of ASSE. This is of note not because of anything ASSE has recently accomplished (sorry ASSE), but rather because, I think, it speaks to the view of the importance of safety, by the new administration.  Both Secretary Solis and Jordan Barab both spoke very candidly about OSHA’s enhanced presence going forward.  Secretary Solis announced that OSHA was launching an statewide campaign in Texas to perform vast compliance inspections of construction sites, with the goal being to reduce Texas’ dubious distinction of having the Nations highest fatality rates in construction.  The construction fatality rate was quickly dismissed, and I might add in my opinion too casually dismissed, by Texas Governor Perry.

It may be that Jordan Barab is the new Sheriff for OSHA.  I find it difficult to imagine why he would be aggressively pushing his views and agendas if he didn’t want the job to be permanent, and based on the comments he and Secretary Solis made in San Antonio about the direction of safety and health issues it seems perfectly plausible that he will be the nominee for permanent head of OSHA with the current administration.  Of course his appointment will need Senate confirmation, and given his views it is expected the Republicans will fight his appointment, if he is nominated.  This may be a moot point, with the new Senator for Minnesota being sworn in.  This gives the Democrats the fabled super majority, at least on paper, they need to stop filibustering.

I think now that the Senate is squarely in the hands of the Democrats, when Congress returns from their summer break, they will push hard and fast for major legislation such as health care reform, continue the fight for the energy bill, and then sometime this fall OSHA and health and safety issues will become front and center.  Of course external events may well dictate the pace, if there is another major loss event (death, or injury to employees) that captures the attention of the media, then expect these health and safety issues to be fast tracked.

All of this will require a permanent head of OSHA to be in place though, and I think Jordan Barab will be that sheriff!

Other notes on OSHA coming out of San Antonio….

1. H.R. 2067 Protecting America’s Workers Act is a front burner item going forward.  You can track it yourself using the link above.

2. OSHA sending more compliance officers to Texas

3. VPP and other alliances may find themselves starving for resources and funding going forward.

4. The famed San Antonio Riverwalk still offers terrific food and ambiance. Sorry, I realize this really isn’t news, but I certainly enjoyed my time there.


Comments are welcome.  Remember to share this blog with any and all that you may feel would be interested.





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