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California Industrial Hygiene Council

Biden Puts Doug Parker In Charge of OSHA

Parker was a lawyer for the Mine Workers and now runs the Cal/OSHA

Kris LaGrange's picture
Apr 12, 2021

California workplace safety chief Doug Parker will take over running the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said President Joe Biden on Friday.

Parker has a long history of working on safety issues. He has been in charge of California’s state version of OSHA (Cal/OSHA) since 2019. During the Obama administration, he worked for the Mine Health and Safety Administration, an agency with a similar goal as OSHA except they focus on mines. Parker has also held positions as a senior policy advisor and special assistant at the Department of Labor and was the executive director of Worksafe, an Oakland, California-based legal services provider. Parker began his career as a staff attorney for the United Mine Workers of America.

OSHA which oversees health and safety regulations has come under intense scrutiny during the pandemic for its failure to issue guidelines on keeping workplaces safe. Although one of Biden’s first orders was to create an emergency temporary standard for COVID, the Department of Labor and OSHA have missed the March 15th deadline. This was partially due to the fact that Labor Secretary Marty Walsh was not confirmed by the Senate until March 22nd.

Parker will take over OSHA as the important department is facing serious challenges. Under Trump, investigations went way down and OSHA is severely understaffed. During the first three years that Trump was in office, OSHA inspections fell about 4.7% over the previous three years under President Obama and the agency has lost nearly 100 inspectors since Trump took over. In 2019, there were just 870 inspectors at OSHA who were expected to handle over 30,000 inspections a year.

Parker has the support of unions and workers groups with the AFL-CIO released a statement on behalf of President Richard Trumka saying:

“Like Doug, I got my start in the labor movement fighting for mine workers’ right to a safe workplace. He has dedicated his life to advancing the cause of worker safety because he understands this is a life-and-death struggle for working people in every industry and in every corner of the country.

Doug’s leadership will help restore OSHA to its essential mission after four years of willful mismanagement and decay. Above all, that critical work must begin with a long-overdue emergency temporary standard to protect America’s workers from a still-raging pandemic.”

Debbie Berkowitz, an advisor to OSHA during the Obama administration who now works for the National Employment Law Project noted that while running Cal/OSHA, the state did almost as much enforcement in 2020 as OSHA did. "Doug gets the importance of an emergency temporary standard to protect workers from COVID-19 and strong enforcement for violators.”

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