Sweatt Starts at OSHA as……..??

According to OSHA’s Organizational Chart, Loren Sweatt has now made the long voyage across the National Mall to become OSHA’s new political Deputy Assistant Secretary — and the agency’s first political appointee of the Trump administration.  I’m assuming she will be — in effect if not in name — OSHA’s Acting Assistant Secretary, although the current OSHA Org Chart doesn’t really reflect it. Compare the current Org Chart with OSHA’s 2009 Org Chart after I assumed the position.  Note that like Yertle the Turtle, I was ruler of all that I could see, whereas, the current Org Chart has her just directing several of the agency’s directorates.

But then, Org Charts are probably not worth much more than the pixels they’re projected from.

Meanwhile, on her first day, I’m sure she’s trying to figure out what to do, what has been left undone in the first 6 months and 5 days where the agency has drifted rudderless.

And I have a suggestion: Develop a press release policy.

Since the inauguration, OSHA has issued less than 10 enforcement-related press releases.  The last administration came under significant — and completely unwarranted — criticism for exploiting press releases to “shame” employers who killed, injured or endangered workers.  Although the Obama administration had increased the number of press releases issued, we did not — as some seem to believe — invent the press release. All other previous administrations — Republican and Democrat — have issued press releases when issuing significant enforcement cases.  They are the main tool that a small agency like OSHA has to let the world know that they exist and will not tolerate violations of the law that endanger workers.  That’s the job.

Word has it that Secretary Acosta supports strong enforcement and has nothing against letting the public know that. So issue a policy — any policy.  The Bush administration issued press releases for any enforcement case greater than $70,000. We reduced that to $40,000.  So, Loren, my recommendation: pick a number. Go back to $70,000. Or raise it a bit (considering that OSHA penalties have gone up at Congressional direction). Republican or Democrat, it’s important. Like it or not, OSHA is a law enforcement agency. A small law enforcement agency that needs to make itself look bigger than it really is. And publicizing OSHA’s enforcement actions is the main tool that OSHA to protect workers by letting the world know that you are serious about carrying out the mission of the agency.

And on a personal note, I worked with Loren for two years while we were both staffing the House Education and Labor Committee from 2007 to 2009.   It’s a much harder job than anyone can imagine. I wish her the best and hope she has time to see her family occasionally. I had already launched my kids before taking the job, and for some reason that I’ll never fathom, my wife did not leave me during the eight years I did little else but work — and bike (which was somewhat less successful than the work part.)

So good luck Loren. My commitment to you is to provide you with valuable advice now and then. And to always let you know when you’re doing a good job, and when you …. have room for improvement.

OSHA Press Releases

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