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California workplace safety chief to be tapped to lead OSHA

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Parker heads California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health and previously worked at the Mine Safety and Health Administration during the Obama administration. Safety experts lauded the nomination.

“Doug Parker is the right person for the job, but he faces a very difficult challenge,” David Michaels, former OSHA chief, said. “COVID is a massive worker safety crisis, and OSHA has not even been permitted to issue an Emergency Standard.”

“The agency has too few inspectors and its standard-setting system is broken,” he said. “Doug knows what needs to be done – but he’ll need the help of the White House and Congress to make OSHA the strong workers’ safety agency this nation needs.”

Walsh defended the slow pace of OSHA’s progress on a coronavirus workplace safety standard Thursday, saying on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: “I wouldn’t say it’s a delay, I’d say we’re looking at this … just to see before we move forward with any kind of standard, if we need to move forward with a standard.”

According to the Labor Department, Walsh has requested “a rapid update” on the standard “based on CDC analysis and the latest information regarding the state of vaccinations and the variants.”

Parker joins several other California officials headed to Washington. Most notably, Biden has nominated California Labor Secretary Julie Su to serve as Walsh’s second-in-command. Su, who was originally floated for the No. 1 spot, has yet to receive a Senate vote on confirmation. Her testimony before the Senate labor panel was decidedly more controversial than Walsh’s: Republicans grilled her on the state’s struggle with unemployment insurance fraud, among other things.

Also of concern for businesses and their allies: Su’s role in implementing California’s own version of an ETS, which many employers have derided as unworkable. That set of rules will undoubtedly present challenges for Parker as well: As head of California’s own workplace safety agency, he played a key role in developing and rolling out the regulations.

“The Virginia standard, the Michigan standard take [employers’] efforts into account,” National Retail Federation Vice President Ed Egee said earlier this year. But California has “a completely unworkable standard,” he added.

“Hopefully we can work together more constructively at the federal level than we did at the state level,” Egee said of Parker’s nomination. “I want to keep an open mind.”

The White House could not immediately be reached for comment.

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