Special Topics in Safety Management

Acosta Departure Likely Cements a Leaderless OSHA

With the resignation of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta last Friday, it looks certain that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will go an entire presidential term without the leadership of an Assistant Secretary of Labor.

Acosta announced his departure from the Department of Labor (DOL) on July 12 after coming under pressure for his role in a lenient 2008 plea deal involving multimillionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, and his resignation will be effective a week after the Friday announcement. Patrick Pizzella, who has served as deputy DOL secretary since April 17, 2018, will now become the Acting Secretary of Labor.

As we reported in May, Scott A. Mugno, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health at OSHA, withdrew his name from consideration for the position after waiting over a year and a half for U.S. Senate approval of his nomination. Acosta’s departure now makes it all but certain that the position will continue to go unfilled for the foreseeable future. With the 2020 presidential election only 16 months away, it’s unlikely that nomination and confirmation proceedings for a new Secretary of Labor (let alone an OSHA head) will be prioritized.

OSHA is currently under the direction of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor Loren Sweatt, who has been OSHA’s Acting Assistant Secretary since she joined the agency in July 2017.

July 19, 2019 update: Since this story’s original publication, it has been announced that Eugene Scalia will be nominated as the new Labor Secretary. Read about what this might mean for OSHA and workplace safety here.