Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Henshaw Announces Resignation

As expected, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, John Henshaw, announced his resignation this afternoon "for personal reasons." Henshaw's resignation was expected. No OSHA director has ever lasted more than one administration.

Personally, without being unkind, I can't say I'm sorry to see him go. There was some hope when his appointment was announced that, as a health and safety professional, he would be more likely than a political hack to move the agency forward, even if slowly. But basically the only thing he did was create alliance after alliance, set vague priorities like "advancing the dialogue of safety and health," and produce empty slogans like "safety pays."

Henshaw oversaw the virtual dismantling of OSHA's standard-making shop. This will be the only administration in history not to issue a major safety and health regulation during its four years in office. The only standard that OSHA is actively working on is hexavalent chromium -- under court order due to a lawsuit filed by the PACE union and Public Citizen.

In fact, Henshaw's administration has actually gone backward, taking over two dozen standards off the regulatory agenda, including an almost finished standard to protect health care workers against tuberculosis. The nearly completed standard that would require employers to pay for workers' gloves, boots and other personal protective eqiupment still lies comatose, four years after Henshaw took office.

And then, of course, Henshaw oversaw acquiesced in the greatest crime in OSHA history -- the repeal of the ergonomics standard. [UPDATE:Although, technically, as one observant reader points out, Henshaw didn't take office until August 2001, over 4 months after the repeal. So perhaps I should replace "oversaw" with "acquiesced in"]

Even industry people have expressed concern that OSHA hasn't done more in such areas as updating the Permissible Exposure Limits that haven't been revised since the 1971.

The only good thing we can say about him is that, knowing this administration, things can always get worse.

We'll have a more complete assessment of Henshaw's term in the near future.