The US Senate has confirmed California workplace-safety official Douglas Parker, President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the US Dept. of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The vote on Oct. 25 was 50-41, generally along party lines. Only two Republicans voted for Parker—Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Rob Portman (Ohio). No Democrats voted against him.
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) praised Parker as “a dogged advocate for worker safety.”
Since 2019, Parker has been chief of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).
As the Labor Dept.’s new assistant secretary occupational safety and health, his first major task will be implementing the Biden administration’s upcoming standard mandating COVID-19 vaccines or weekly testing for workers at companies with more than 100 workers.
[View ENR 9/10/2021 story on Biden directive here.]
That regulation is under review at the Office of Management and Budget.
North America's Building Trades Unions (NABTU) were pleased that Parker was confirmed. Chris Trahan Cain, NABTU director of safety and health, said in comments emailed to ENR, "The persistent and deadly hazards from fall, electrocution, 'struck-by' [objects or equipment], crushing, chemical hazards, and heat remain at the forefront of our minds, while we also deal with emergent hazards of infectious diseases and psychosocial threats in our industry."
She said NABTU expects to work as well with Parker as it has with Acting Assistant Secretary James Frederick.
Frederick was named to the acting assistant secretary's job on Jan. 21. He is a long-time former official with the United Steelworkers.
Greg Sizemore, Associated Builders and Contractors vice president of health, safety, environment an workforce development, said in comments emailed to ENR that ABC hopes that OSHA "will continue to view ABC as an important business partner," on issues such as the development of regulations that affect the construction industry, such as the emergency temporary standard and measures dealing with heat-related hazards.
House Education and Labor Committee’s top Republican, Virginia Foxx (N.C.). said in a statement that she is “deeply concerned with Doug Parker’s ability to run OSHA.”
Foxx criticized Parker’s role in developing California’s emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 and said the pending Biden standard “will have a devastating impact on workers, business owners and our economy.”
In the Obama administration, he was deputy assistant secretary for policy in the Dept. of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Parker is an attorney and his initial job in the legal field was as a staff attorney with the United Mine Workers of America.
Story updated on 10/26/2021 with detailed breakdown of vote; and comments from Associated Builders and Contractors.