Scott Mugno, President Trump’s choice to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, will go before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee next Tuesday at 10:00 am for his confirmation hearing. Mugno is Vice President for Safety, Sustainability and Vehicle Maintenance at FedEx Ground in Pittsburgh and was formerly Managing Director for FedEx Express Corporate Safety, Health and Fire Protection in Memphis. You can watch it LIVE here.
Unfortunately, Mugno is one of four nominees to be considered at the hearing. (Two are Education Department appointees, and the other is William Beach, nominated to be Commissioner of Labor Statistics.) So Mugno is not likely to get a lot of questions at the hearing. Nevertheless, there are a number of areas that the Senators should focus on at the hearing or ask him in written questions after the hearing:
FedEx’s Safety Record: I wrote yesterday about the recent deaths and injuries of several FedEx employees, three killed at the same facility over the past three years. While most of these incidents occurred at FedEx Express, not FedEx Ground where Mugno is currently responsible for safety, he should be expected to address important issues raised by these events. I reviewed some of the questions that Mugno should be asked in yesterday’s post.
OSHA Standards: There are a number of important OSHA standards in the works, including an update of OSHA’s Process Safety Management standard, and new standards that would protect workers against infectious diseases, workplace violence and falls from cell towers. Which of these, if any, does Mugno plan to finalize during his tenure? And what does he think about the legality and morality of Trump’s One-In, Two-Out Executive Order that would require OSHA to take way two worker protections for every one that’s added?
Enforcement: If OSHA were to visit every workplace in the country just once, it would take over 150 years, and a hiring freeze has made the problem worse. Although the hiring freeze for inspectors was recently lifted, OSHA enforcement capacity is still suffering. Beyond just stating that enforcement is important, what does Mugno plan to do to actually improve OSHA’s enforcement capacity?
Press Releases: Every administration before this one has used press releases as an effective way to leverage OSHA’s tiny resources. Why has this administration decided that press releases are not useful? Does he plan to change that policy?
VPP: If he, like Secretary Acosta, thinks VPP is so great, how will he grow the program AND maintain its integrity on OSHA’s limited budget?
Vulnerable Workers: Immigrants, day laborers, temp workers all work in high hazard occupations, suffer more injuries than average and are difficult to reach by OSHA inspectors. How does Mugno plan to address these issues?
Recordkeeping: OSHA will be collecting injury and illness information from thousands of employers. Does Mugno plan to post that information on OSHA’s website as originally envisioned? Does he think that employers should be forbidden from retaliating against workers for reporting injuries?
Susan Harwood Grants: The Susan Harwood Training Grants are a proven and effective way of providing funding to build health and safety capacity in organizations that help vulnerable workers and employees of small businesses. Does Mugno think this important program should be expanded or eliminated as the Trump budget proposed?
What Not To Expect
Don’t raise your expectations for this hearing. Aside from the fact that Mugno is only one of four witnesses, you should expect a lot of non-responses like “I’m not familiar enough with this issue to answer that question at this time” and “I’m looking forward to working with you on that issue.”
We’ll hear some standard lines about the importance of a “balanced approach” between compliance assistance and enforcement, and some not-so-subtle digs against the Obama administration like his desire to prioritize “cooperation over confrontation,” not using press releases to “shame” employers and not issuing standards that “kill jobs.” And probably a few references to getting rid of “outdated standards,” the OSHA equivalent of the eternal promise to eliminate “waste, fraud and abuse.”
The important thing for Senators to do is to impress upon him that they’re watching what he does, and watching carefully. And should Democrats regain the majority in either house of Congress (possibly in 2018), he should expect some serious oversite.