After months of rumors, the White House has finally announced that it has nominated Scott Mugno, vice president for safety, sustainability and vehicle maintenance at FedEx Ground in Pittsburgh, to be the assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.
He was previously the managing director for FedEx Express Corporate Safety, Health and Fire Protection in Memphis, Tenn. His responsibilities in both those positions included developing, promoting and facilitating the safety and health program and culture. Mr. Mugno was twice awarded FedEx’s highest honor, the FedEx Five Star Award, for his safety leadership at FedEx Express.
Mugno is clearly knowledgeable about safety and health, although he has a few upsetting notions: At a Chamber of Commerce function last year, Mugno expressed interest in “sunsetting” certain OSHA rules. “‘We’ve got to free OSHA from its own statutory and regulatory handcuffs,’ said Mugno.
He noted that much has changed since OSHA was established in 1971, and that maybe some regulations should be subject to sunset provisions.” Sunsetting means that after a certain fixed time, they either expire or you have to re-issue them. There is currently nothing in the law that allows standards to be sunsetted, unless OSHA goes through a regulatory process determining whether they are still needed or not.
All in all, of course, it could have been much worse. Mugno is no Scott Pruitt (or Jeff Sessions. Or Betsy DeVos. Or Ben Carson.) And as I’ve written before, there are basically only four choices you get to head up an agency like OSHA (or MSHA).
Category 1: A worker-oriented safety and health advocate. (Someone like David Michaels, who headed the agency in the Obama administration.)
Category 2: A safety and health professional. (Sort of like Bush II’s first OSHA head, John Henshaw, or Bush I’s pick, Jerry Scannell.)
Category 3: A campaign contributor or ideologue who knows very little about mining or mine safety, but whose main focus is to undermine the agency’s mission. (See EPA administrator Scott Pruitt or Reagan’s OSHA head, Thorne Auchter.)
Category 4: An industry executive who knows the industry, and possibly something about safety.
Obviously, Category 1 is out of the question. Mugno seems to fall into Category 4. Most likely a typical Republican pick who will want to shift the balance from a strong enforcement program to a larger compliance assistance program, but won’t try to dismantle the agency.
What Do We Need to Watch Out For?
There are a few things we will be watching out for over here at Confined Space World Headquarters.
Enforcement vs. Compliance Assistance: No matter what administration is in power, OSHA always balances a strong enforcement program and an active compliance assistance program. Despite accusations that the Obama administration was all enforcement and no cooperation or compliance assistance, the Assistant Secretary David Michaels paired a strong enforcement program with a very active compliance assistance program that focused not only on employers, but also on vulnerable workers. The Obama administration also maintained the VPP program, focusing on the program’s integrity, rather than size. Similarly, while the Bush (II) administration significantly grew the VPP program and created the Alliance program, it also maintained OSHA’s enforcement program for the most part.
The question will be whether Mugno lets OSHA fall into the same trap that the Bush administration did: Growing the VPP program to the point where it stressed the rest of the OSHA budget and impacted the VPP program’s integrity because the agency didn’t have the resources to ensure that only the most deserving employers were allowed in the program.