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OSHA Update: New Year, New Direction?

Based on a significant shift in leadership, many are speculating on possible changes to OSHA’s practices enforcement  going into 2018.  Given the current administration’s reputation for opposing regulation, some believe that OSHA will start to favor compliance rather than enforcement.[1]  While there is not much documentary support for that thought, some clues to OSHA’s direction can be inferred from the prospective new leader of the agency.

In October of 2017, Scott Mugno was nominated to be Assistant Secretary of Labor, who will be in charge of OSHA.  Mr. Mugno’s most recent background is as vice president of safety, sustainability and vehicle maintenance at Fedex Ground.  He also served on the OSHA subcommittee for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which is known as an OSHA opponent.   That background suggests that Mr. Mugno is someone who will take a business-friendly approach with the agency.   In his confirmation hearing, Mr. Mugno may have given some indication of his approach when he praised OSHA’s compliance programs such as the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP).  Mr. Mugno also highlighted the responsibility of employees for assuring their own health when he said “If safety was a sport, it’s a team sport…”[2]

It is worth noting, however, that OSHA’s enforcement budget for 2018 has not changed much from 2017.  While the  Department of Labor budget has been cut, OSHA has not been subject to many of those cuts.[3]  In addition, despite a 4% decrease in the number of inspectors during 2017, the number of inspections has increased over the past year.[4]

Employers should look for more detailed policy moves from the new leadership in the coming year and keep up with local trade associations whose membership report on safety and health.


[1] Mulvaney, Erin; Former OSHA Head Predicts Shift From Enforcement to Compliance Assistance; National Law Journal; January 12, 2018; accessed January 22, 2018.
[2] Ferguson, Alan;  OSHA head nominee Scott Mugno underscores teamwork during Senate confirmation hearing; Safety + Health Magazine; December 29, 2017; http://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/16446-osha-head-nominee-scott-mugno-underscores-teamwork-during-senate-confirmation-hearing; accessed January 24, 2018.
[3] Proposed FY 2018 budged: No major changes for OSHA, MSHA; CSB still facing elimination, Safety + Health Magazine; May 24, 2017; http://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/15751-proposed-budget-shows-no-major-changes-to-osha-msha-funding-for-fy-2018-csb-still-facing-elimination; accessed January 20, 2018
[4] Smith, Sandy, OSHA Inspectors and the Workplace: Death by Attrition; EHS Outloud Blog; January 10, 2018; http://www.ehstoday.com/osha/osha-inspectors-and-workplace-death-attrition; accessed January 24, 2018.

Author’s note: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation. Regulations and laws may vary depending on your location. Consult with a licensed attorney in your area if you wish to obtain legal advice and/or counsel for a particular legal issue.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Brock is an attorney based in the Tampa office of Cotney Construction Law.  John practices in all areas of construction law with a focus on OSHA defense and bankruptcy.